Economist of the year competition consensus estimates as hosted by the Bureau of Market Research (Pty) Ltd and UNISA

Author: Prof DF Meyer, College of Business and Economics, UJ

The Bureau for Market Research (Pty) Ltd at Unisa is the host of the re-branded “Economist of the Year” competition since 2022. This competition, which facilitates economic predictions by economists, was for many years facilitated by Media24. Participating economists analyse and predict a range of eight economic indicators monthly during the year. This year, 36 economists from universities, financial institutions, corporate businesses and the private sector are competing to be named the “Economist of 2023”.

In the past years, the consensus of predictions of the participating economists was extremely accurate, and many institutions, businesses and governments use the predictions to understand the economy’s outcomes and plan for the rest of the year and the future. Here is an analysis of some of the 2023 economic forecasts some of the participating economists produced.

South Africa is still in a tight grip of a low economic growth and investment environment. The August 2023 consensus prediction by the economists for GDP growth for 2023 is a low 0.3%, down from 0.4% from the initial February 2023 predictions. In the August 2023 round of predictions, economists’ predictions ranged from a negative growth of -0.5% (Reuben Beelders) to 1.2% (Johann Els). Last year’s winner, Ulrich Joubert and the winner of 2019 & 2020, Johannes Jordaan, are predicting growth at only 0.1% for 2023. Based on the information, I predict the economic growth for 2023 should range between 0.1% to 0.4%.

The second predicted variable is the average consumer price inflation rate for 2023. The August consensus by the economists was 5.9%. Most economists predict this year’s average inflation rate between 5.8% and 6.2%. Inflation is slowly but surely returning to the mid-point of the SARB target of 4.5%, with the latest inflation data released in July being as low as 4.7%. Recent fuel, energy and municipal account increases could put upward pressure on the inflation rate in the coming months. Still, it’s not expected to bridge the top of the inflation target band of 6% again this year. Last year’s winner, Urich Joubert, predicts an average inflation rate of 6.0%.

The prime interest rate for quarter 4 of 2023 is the next variable economists predict. Based on the latest inflation data, interest rates have peaked after two years of increases. Most economists believe the prime interest rate has peaked at 11.75% and should remain stable for the rest of the year, although the SARB, with its conservative outlook, could allow another 0.25% increase before the end of the year. Of the 36 participating economists, 13 predict interest rates to increase to 12.0% before the end of the year, while the rest predict interest rates will be stable for the rest of 2023.

Regarding the USD/ZAR exchange rate (also the average exchange rate for quarter 4 of 2023), the current market volatility is reflected in the range of predictions by the 36 economists, from R17.10 (Johann Els) to R19.66 (Wilbie Venter) per Dollar, with a consensus of R18.05. The Rand is expected to hover between R18.00 to R18.50 on average during 2023, and closer or even above R19.00 to the dollar towards the end of the year.

Regarding Brent crude oil prices, the consensus is $78 per barrel for the last quarter of 2023, with predictions ranging between $70 (Aalia Cassim) to $87 (Nthbabiseng Moleko) per barrel. Although the Brent crude oil price is very volatile, it is expected to trade within a band of between $80 to $90 towards the end of the year.

Finally, household consumption expenditure growth rate is predicted. The consensus regarding household expenditure growth for 2023 was 1.0% in August, down from 1.3% in February 2023. Predictions range between 0.0% (Aalia Cassim) to 2.2% (Gisele Mah). Johannes Jordaan is predicting an increase of 0.9%. Household expenditure is expected to increase within a range of 0.9% to 1.2% during 2023. The consensus for the rest of the variables is included in the table.

In conclusion, economic growth remains low due to many factors, including the global economic environment, rolling electricity blackouts, the high-interest rate implemented through the SARB monetary policy and finally, policy certainty. A positive component of the economic environment is the lower inflation data for July 2023, but low inflation also means a stagnating economy. We urgently need to get the economy to grow at 3% or higher, and this will require economic restructuring, a national economic plan which is fully implemented and policy certainty. High levels of investment in the economy could flow from these initiatives.

The table below summarises all the variables with the February and August 2023 consensus and my predicted value for 2023.

Professional enquiries:

Prof DF Meyer
Member of School of PMGPP
College of Business and Economics
University of Johannesburg


Prof CJ van Aardt
Research Director
Bureau of Market Research (Pty) Ltd
University of South Africa

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