IMF slashes South Africa’s growth forecast to 1% amid logistical challenges

By Ntando Thukwana

The International Monetary Fund 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-industrialized 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. 

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.”

Read More: How Rail and Port Chaos Add to South Africa’s Woes

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 fund 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 Feb. 21.

“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.

Sub-Saharan Africa

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.

Sub-Saharan Africa faces ongoing headwinds from external factors including still-high inflation and elevated borrowing costs. And while its levels of growth are projected to be higher than in advanced economies, that difference disappears when measured on a per capita basis, stalling progress in reducing inequality.

“If you take advanced economies, we see per capita growth there at about 1.5% in the medium term. That’s roughly the same as currently for sub-Saharan Africa,” Daniel Leigh, division chief in the IMF research department, told a press conference later in Johannesburg. “That’s not going to make progress in converging toward the higher income per capita.”

Read also:

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

Visited 206 times, 2 visit(s) today