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South Africa’s GDP returns to pre-pandemic levels, increases 1.9% in first quarter

Beer bottles move along a conveyor belt system on the production line at SABMiller Plc's Newlands brewery in Cape Town, South Africa, Photographer, Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg.

Beer bottles move along a conveyor belt system on the production line at SABMiller Plc's Newlands brewery in Cape Town, South Africa, Photographer, Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg.

Published Jun 7, 2022

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South African gross domestic product (GDP) returned to pre-pandemic levels after expanding by 1.9 percent in the first quarter of 2022, representing a second consecutive quarter of upward growth.

This GDP growth was more than expected and well above market estimates of a 1.2 percent rise following an upwardly revised 1.4 percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2021.

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Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) today said the size of the economy was now at pre-pandemic levels, with real GDP slightly higher than what it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the production side of the economy, StatsSA said that 8 of the 10 industries recorded positive growth in the first quarter, with manufacturing activity being the star performer.

StatsSA said the sharp increase in manufacturing output was mainly driven by a rise in the production of petroleum and chemicals, food and beverages, and metals and machinery.

It said that finance, real estate and business services, as well as trade, also made sizable positive contributions to GDP growth.

Trade activity was buoyant in the first quarter, with positive results from wholesale, retail, motor trade, and catering and accommodation.

However, after a strong fourth quarter, agriculture growth was more subdued in the first quarter, edging higher by 0.8 percent mainly underpinned by increased horticulture production.

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In a rare case of the national statistical agency becoming a contributor to growth, Stats SA’s drive to employ thousands of fieldworkers for the population census helped generate economic activity in general government.

On the downside, both mining and construction contracted in the first quarter.

StatsSA said that mining output was lower, mainly due to a pullback in the production of platinum group metals, iron ore and gold.

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Construction saw its fourth consecutive quarter of contraction, with underwhelming results reported for residential buildings and construction works.

StatsSA said household consumption, government consumption, gross fixed capital formation, exports and imports all continued to grow in the first quarter.

Data from StatsSA, however, has not yet measured the economic impact of the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal, which occurred during the second quarter in April.

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This will only reflect in the GDP results due for release in September.

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