SA’s economy shows mute growth, averts technical recession

South Africa’s economy exhibited marginal growth in the fourth quarter of 2023, expanding by 0.1%. 

According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), this growth, while modest, saw the economy manage to avert a technical recession, which is described as two consecutive quarters of negative growth. 

Stats SA announced during a media briefing on Tuesday that the country’s annual growth rate for 2023 stood at 0.6%, indicating a sluggish recovery from the economic setbacks brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Performing below expectations

Despite the overall positive trajectory, challenges remain, with the economy still performing below expectations. 

Real gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter reached R1.158-billion, surpassing pre-pandemic levels but still falling short of the peak recorded in the third quarter of 2022.

Six out of 10 industries contributed to keeping the economy afloat, with the transport, storage, and communication sectors leading the positive impact on GDP, Stats SA said. 

The mining industry saw a notable increase of 2.4%, driven by enhanced production of platinum group metals, chromium ore, coal, and diamonds.

In contrast, the heavyweights of iron ore and gold experienced declines during the quarter.

Fewer instances of loadshedding

However, due to fewer instances of loadshedding, the electricity, gas, and water sectors recorded growth for a second consecutive quarter.

The personal services industry recorded growth, particularly in healthcare and education, while finance, real estate, and business services expanded by 0.6%, driven by financial intermediation and auxiliary activities.

The manufacturing sector witnessed a modest uptick of 0.2%, while trade, agriculture, construction, and government sectors faced challenges. 

Stats SA said: “Construction saw its first positive year since 2016, expanding by 0.6%. Both mining and electricity, gas, and water were down for a second year in a row.

“Agriculture recorded its first annual contraction since 2019, shrinking by 12.2%. This is the biggest annual fall in agriculture production since 1995 [-19.9%].”

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing notably contracted by 9.7%, which was attributed to weaker production figures for various agricultural products.

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