SA economy grows by 1.2% in fourth quarter of 2021

South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 1.2% in the fourth quarter of 2021, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) announced on Tuesday.

“The fourth quarter was upbeat, with personal services, trade, manufacturing and agriculture the key drivers of growth.

An increase in demand for goods and services drove up the expenditure side of the economy, with exports and household expenditure the most significant contributors to growth,” said Stats SA.

The growth seen in the fourth quarter follows an upwardly revised 1.7% contraction (from 1.5%) in the third quarter of 2021.

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries led the growth statistics in that quarter by posting an increase of some 12.2% with the sector’s 2021 annual growth standing at about 8.3%.

Trade grew by at least 2.9%, manufacturing recorded an increase of about 2.8%, personal services added at least 2.7% growth and transport and communications grew by some 2.2%.

Stats SA said the fourth quarter growth spurred the GDP annual growth rate to about 4.9% after a “dismal” 6.4% contraction during 2020 when the country was hampered by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The electricity, gas and water supply industry has also decreased by 3.4% with construction also plummeting by at least 2.2% during the last quarter of 2021.

After showing growth during the second and third quarters, mining has slowed down by 3.1% during the last quarter.

“The higher than usual rainfall was good for agriculture, but not great for mining. The country produced less iron ore and coal in the fourth quarter, with heavy rains disrupting operations at opencast mines.

“Miners of gold, manganese ore, diamonds and chromium ore also recorded lower production figures,” Stats SA said.

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Despite this, the sector remains the current bedrock of the economy posting annual growth of at least 11.8% during 2021, followed by agriculture (8.3%) and manufacturing (6.6%).

Household spending and exports

Statistics South Africa revealed that there was an increase in consumer demand in 2021’s last quarter – leading to an increase of at least 2.8% in household expenditure over that period.

“Reflecting the rise in trade activity on the production side of the economy, households increased spending across all product categories.

The largest positive contributors to household expenditure were food and non-alcoholic beverages, restaurants and hotels, and furnishings and household equipment,” the agency said.

Exports grew by at least 8.5% in the last quarter and contributed at least 2.1% expenditure growth on the GDP.

“Exports… [were] driven mainly by precious metals and stones (gold, platinum and diamonds), base metals, and motor vehicles, parts and accessories. Imports were up too, on the back of increased demand for machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, parts and accessories and base metals,” Stats SA said.

The data-collecting agency warned that although the economy is showing signs of growth, it is still in a state of recovery.

“Despite these positive figures, real GDP has yet to recover to the level recorded in the second quarter of 2021, before civil unrest and stricter lockdown restrictions shook the economy in the third quarter.

“Real GDP continues to lag pre-pandemic levels too, with economic activity on par with the third quarter of 2017. The economy is 1.8% smaller than it was in the first quarter of 2020,” Stats SA said.