IMF cuts South Africa’s 2024 growth forecast

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) downgraded its economic growth forecasts for South Africa, warning that logistical challenges are constraining activity and acting as a drag on the entire region.

Africa’s most-industrialised economy will likely grow a meager 1% this year, significantly slower than the IMF’s forecast in October, when it saw South Africa’s gross domestic product expanding by 1.8%, the Washington-based lender said Tuesday in an update to its World Economic Outlook.

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That’s due chiefly to “all of the disruptions we’ve seen in the energy sector and also the logistics — in transportation, freight and ports in South Africa,” IMF Chief Economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas told Jennifer Zabasajja in an interview on Bloomberg Television in Johannesburg.

“That needs to be addressed.”

The country has been handicapped by rolling power cuts and snarled logistics at its ports and railways that reflect years of inadequate investment and poor management. The IMF cut the country’s 2025 forecast to 1.3% from 1.6%.

Gourinchas was also cautious about South Africa’s frail fiscal position and elevated public debt levels. Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana will deliver his annual budget speech on 21 February.

Fiscal consolidation

“We were talking about the need for fiscal consolidation for South Africa,” he said. “There is a need also to put public spending under control and to raise tax revenues.”

South Africa will hold elections this year, posing additional challenges to the public purse.

With polls showing the ruling African National Congress at risk of losing its majority for the first time since 1994, some elements of the party will likely oppose spending cuts, even as the Treasury argues for fiscal restraint.

Read: ‘Local markets will be volatile before the elections’

The country’s tepid performance is also holding back the entire region. While the IMF sees Sub-Saharan Africa growing by 3.8% this year, it’s notched that outlook back sightly.

“The downward revision for 2024 of 0.2 percentage point from October 2023 mainly reflects a weaker projection for South Africa on account of increasing logistical constraints,” the lender said.

© 2024 Bloomberg

Harry Byrne

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