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South Africa’s Economic Woes Deepen Amid Mining and Manufacturing Slump

by Victor Adetimilehin

South Africa is grappling with a grim economic outlook as key sectors signal a challenging start to the third quarter of this year. The nation’s industrial landscape has shown vulnerabilities in July, casting shadows on the broader economic prospects. Both the mining and manufacturing sectors, integral for South Africa’s growth, performed poorly during this period, as indicated by data unveiled by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) this week.

In July, mining production saw a sharp decline, plummeting by 3.6% year on year, a far cry from the 0.2% contraction expected by analysts. The leading culprits behind this downturn were platinum group metals (PGMs), registering a staggering drop of 10.4%, followed by iron ore, coal, and gold. The mining industry has been grappling with persistent challenges, including rising operational costs, labor unrest, regulatory ambiguities, and intermittent power shortages.

Meanwhile, manufacturing production showed some resilience, posting a 2.3% year-on-year growth in July. However, this was a considerable slowdown compared to the robust 5.9% growth recorded in June. On a monthly scale, manufacturing output took a hit, declining by 1.6%, marking the most significant drop this year. Growth was led by segments like food and beverages, basic iron and steel, and motor vehicles. Nevertheless, these gains were offset by setbacks in other sectors such as textiles, clothing and leather, petroleum and chemicals, and wood and paper.

The lackluster performance of South Africa’s mining and manufacturing sectors in July raises concerns that the momentum gained in the second quarter, with an unexpectedly strong 0.6% growth, may have been short-lived. The third quarter is likely to pose more significant challenges, as the nation grapples with the aftermath of widespread looting and violence that disrupted supply chains and inflicted damage on infrastructure. The situation worsened with Eskom, the state-owned electricity utility, reinstating stage 6 power cuts in September, adding additional pressure on already beleaguered industries.

The outlook for South Africa’s economy remains fragile and uncertain, as it endeavors to recover from the crippling impact of longstanding structural issues. Effective collaboration between the government and the private sector is imperative, with a focus on implementing reforms that can rejuvenate confidence, stimulate investment, and foster growth. Key areas demanding immediate attention include fortifying energy security, curbing public debt, enhancing competitiveness and productivity, and generating more employment opportunities.

Source: Daily Maverick

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