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EXPECTATIONS FOR SOUTH AFRICA’S ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE DURING 2024

EXPECTATIONS FOR SOUTH AFRICA’S ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE DURING 2024

Author: Prof Carel van Aardt (Research Director: Market Intelligence Research Division)

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

There is a broad consensus regarding 2024 economic outcomes, although top economists differ regarding the exact numbers and percentages. Some of the main expectations can broadly be classified into three categories, namely the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good – improved performance or outcomes are expected for:

Higher level of economic growth; Higher level of household consumption expenditure growth; Lower levels of inflation; Lower interest rates & Increase in the number of employed individuals.

The bad – weaker performance or outcomes are expected for:

Higher unemployment rates; Higher government debt to GDP ratio; Increased policy uncertainty due to the national elections in 2024; Growth in the number of downside risks and/or structural constraints to economic growth & Declining levels of foreign and local investor confidence.

The ugly – negative outcomes over the long-term are expected for:

High incidence of income inequality and poverty; Deterioration in physical infrastructure; Negative sovereign investment ratings by the major international ratings agencies; Continued loadshedding & Increased pessimism and socio-political instability.

The implication of these expectations for businesses is that 2024 is anticipated to be a very challenging year on the economic, political and social fronts, with some relief expected in the form of lower inflation and interest rates and some growth in household consumption expenditure and compensation.

In the News

State of the Nation Address 2024 (Source: Parliament)
  • Main themes which dominated the annual SoNA included crime and corruption, youth unemployment, loadshedding, the controversial Nation Health Insurance bill and the extension of social grants.
  • President Ramaphosa’s SoNA 2024 highlighted both achievements and challenges, emphasizing the need for continued efforts to build a stronger, more inclusive South Africa.
National Budget (Source: National Treasury)
  • National Treasury will be utilizing R150 billion of the R500 billion from the Gold & Foreign Exchange Contingency Reserve Account (GFECRA) to pay off the national debt.
  • No hikes to income taxes, VAT or fuel and accident levies.
  • No inflation adjustments to the personal income tax tables and medical tax credits.
  • Social grants will receive inflation-linked increases.
Take Home Pay (Source: BankservAfrica)
  • Average real take-home pay of salary earners in South Africa increased by 3.5% year-on-year in January 2024, suggesting significant ongoing erosion in the purchasing power of salary earners.
  • The average real take-home pay was recorded at R13 968 in January 2024.
International growth expectations for 2024 (Source: OECD)
  • Global: 2.9%
  • US: 2.1%
  • Euro Area: 0.6%
  • G20: 2.9%
  • China: 4.7%
  • Concerns about disruptions in global trade, with sharp delays and some 100% cost increases following attacks in the Red Sea. Beside shipping problems, the rise of serious geopolitical tensions is a significant risk to trade and inflation, with the conflict in the Middle East threatening the stability of energy markets.
Social Media (Source: DataReportal)
  • Ranked by number of monthly active users, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and TikTok were rated the most popular social networks worldwide as of January 2024.
  • There were 45.34 million internet users in South Africa at the start of 2024, of which 57.3% used at least one social media platform in January 2024.

CONSUMER FINANCIAL VULNERABILITY INDEX: Q3 2023

Structural factors to keep consumer finances fragile

Cyclical factors kept consumer finances in a fragile state, with structural factors becoming main risks to consumer finances in the third quarter of 2023 (Q3 2023).  Key consumer informants identified structural impediments such as a) political instability and corruption; b) the well-known triad of unemployment, poverty, and inequality; in addition to c) loadshedding as key risks to building on the improvement in the state of consumer finances which occurred in the third quarter of 2023 (Q3 2023). The CFVI increased to 50.9 points in Q3 2023 from 49.3 points in Q2 2023, mainly due to a more upbeat cyclical economic environment, driven by encouraging CPI, interest rate and income earning developments.

The CFVI as measured from the views of consumer key informants who deal with consumers daily increased to 50.9 points in Q3 2023 from 49.3 points in Q2 2023 and 49.7 points a year ago.  This deemed consumers to be less financially vulnerable in Q3 2023, although still in despair.

The improvement in the CFVI and its four sub-indices was driven by an increase in consumers’ access to an income via both employment and transfers from family and friends. This had a positive domino-effect on the other three subcomponents. Although consumers still limited their purchases, the better income combined with lower CPI contributed to an improvement in the expenditure index as they were better able to afford their expenses. Likewise, combined with stable interest rates, the higher income improved consumers’ ability to service their debt, though they were still vulnerable in this department. Similarly, the improved access to more income, combined with being better able to afford expenses and debt service costs, created room for emergencies saving. However, consumers were not yet in a position to contribute more to retirement savings, causing the saving index to remain below 50 points.

Economic and consumer finance outlook

A mixed economic and personal finance outlook for Q4 2023 was revealed. Consumer key informants are still overwhelmingly negative, but their outlook for CPI and consumer finances improved compared to Q3 2023, while they were most negative on the global economic outlook. The following were the majority views for Q4 2023:

  • 4% expect consumer finances to remain at the current vulnerable level or worsen.
  • 9% anticipate general prices to increase, whether at the same rate or a slightly slower pace.
  • Around 82% expect the global and domestic economic situation to remain the same or worsen.
  • 1% foresee an unchanged or worsening unemployment situation.

When the effect of cyclical factors on consumer finances subsides, structural factors normally re-emerge as the biggest risks. This is confirmed by the risks expected to exercise the biggest pressure on consumer finances in Q4 2023 – as indicated by chart 2. Persistent unemployment, poverty, and inequality and continuous loadshedding are expected to be the highest risks to consumer finances in Q4 2023. Although another structural risk, political instability and corruption, moved down to the fourth highest risk, this should be viewed in context. It is a relative issue – its risk measurement was at the exact same level as in Q2 2023, but other factors are expected to become even higher risks in Q4 2023.

Please click HERE to download the full report.

Watch interview with Gareth Edwards from ENCA | 27 October 2023

 

ECONOMIC PREDICTIONS FOR THE REST OF 2023 IN UNSTABLE WATERS

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
E-mail: dfmeyer@uj.ac.za

 

Prof CJ van Aardt
Research Director
Bureau of Market Research (Pty) Ltd
University of South Africa
E-mail: carel.vanaardt@bmr.co.za

SOUTH AFRICAN LIFE SATISFACTION STUDY

A glimmer of hope is evident among South Africans’ life satisfaction, despite general and declining low levels of happiness during the past decade.

The Bureau of Market Research’s (Pty) Ltd. (BMR) annual Happiness Index study, which monitors satisfaction with life, indicates higher levels of adaptability and hope as South Africans believe they can ensure their own happiness.  South Africans’ ability to adapt to changing and difficult life circumstances with the hope that their situations will improve, dictates the key drivers for the rising life satisfaction levels in some satisfaction indicators in 2023.   In 2022 the BMR-study reported that South Africans’ life satisfaction levels declined the preceding 10 years and reached the lowest level since the start of the study in 2012.   However, the 2023 results reveal a glimmer of hope with more South Africans feeling seemingly more satisfied about some life spheres.

The 2023 BMR-study among 2 005 respondents indicates improved levels of satisfaction towards work, financial position, family and emotional wellness that increased during the past year, despite an overall downward trend in these indicators during the past 11 years.  However, South Africans’ satisfaction towards their parental roles and physical health declined, and dissatisfaction towards both the economic climate and political climate represents the highest increase in unhappiness to date.  On a positive note, the BMR’s findings showcase lower levels of psychological stress evident among South Africans.  On the contrary, the BMR research indicate declining levels of consumer trust coupled with increasing distrust in the national government, municipalities and Police service.    According to the BMR study, South Africans also expressed lower and limited trust regarding internet security, online shopping, financial institutions, media, and popular brand names.

The BMR consumer happiness indicator excerpts as derived from six measures (mood and attitudinal monitor, happiness with 15 life spheres, general psychological wellness, life satisfaction, locus of control, and consumer trust and confidence regarding 27 identified practices and institutions) is presented below:

BMR consumer happiness indicator excerpts

According to Dr Poalses (BMR Senior Researcher) research on the state of happiness of a nation is regarded as important for understanding the well-being beyond economic indicators.  The purpose of this research is to inform policy decisions and to guide social progress goals.  By prioritising life satisfaction research, the government, business, and civil society can work towards creating environments that foster well-being and enhance the quality of life of citizens.

Background
The Behavioural and Communication Research Division of the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) pioneered the construction of a Happiness Index in 2012 among graduates.  The measurement instrument is grounded in existing international models, comprising six measures of happiness antecedents.  The 2023 report presents an eleven-year trend analysis for selected indicators of happiness and life satisfaction.

HAPPINESS INDEX 2023 report (Research Report no 527) was compiled by Dr Jacolize Poalses (Senior Researcher) in collaboration with Prof DH Tustin (Chief Executive Officer) from the Bureau of Market Research.

Watch: It’s Topical | Surviving the Festive Season

THE IMPACT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON THE WELLBEING OF SOUTH AFRICAN YOUTH

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Wellbeing of South African Youth

As part of the YRU@BMR Youth Ambassador Research initiative, the Youth Research Unit (YRU) of the Bureau of Market Research (Pty) Ltd (BMR) at Unisa, conducted a study investigating the wellbeing of South African youth after the COVID-19 pandemic.  The pandemic has given rise to concerns about the increased vulnerability and well-being of youth, and in response the study investigated three challenges faced by the youth including substance use, online sexual exploitation, and cyber bullying.   A total of 1 124 young people between the ages of 12 to 20 years participated in the research study.

Substance Use and Abuse
The YRU@BMR study confirmed that young people find themselves in an environment where both legal and illegal substances are openly used and easily accessible.  The study confirmed the use of a variety of tobacco products among the youth, including cigarettes (50%), “Hubbly Bubbly” (Hookah) (48.0%) as well as ‘’vaping” (14%).  Together with the unsafe use of tobacco products especially during social events, the study identified high levels of alcohol consumption among youth.  According to Dr Antoinette Basson, who led the study, almost two-thirds of the participants (62.0%) confirmed that they consumed alcohol during the past 12 months, of which almost half (47.0%) who have consumed alcohol have been drunk.  These findings are consistent with previous YRU@BMR studies and confirm the irresponsible use of alcohol amongst young people with detrimental consequences.

The use of illicit substances is equally concerning, approximately 26% of the young participants confirmed that they are using illicit drugs, of which Cannabis “Dagga’’ (56%) and over the counter (OTC) 17% medication were most frequently used.  According to Dr Basson, further exploration into the possible impact of COVID-19 on substance use amongst the youth confirmed an increase, which was mainly ascribed to the national lockdown restrictions.  This finding confirms that spending more time in the household is not always a protective factor, specifically for young people who are exposed to dysfunctional family environments and unhealthy modeling behavior.  Basson further explained that the study identified high levels of stress and stressful parent-child relationships as key contributing factors to substance use during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
In addition to substance use and abuse, the YRU@BMR study investigated the online sexual exploitation and abuse of young people, more specifically the exposure to online sexually explicit images (pornographic images). The study confirmed high levels of access to the Internet and smart devices, which further increased during the COVID-19 pandemic especially due to the need for online education and communication.  Subsequently, this resulted in the increased vulnerability of young people to online sexual exploitation and abuse.

According to Dr Basson, the YRU@BMR study found that approximately 71.0% have seen disturbing images online, mostly sexual (75.0%) and violent (53.0%) images.   Further analyses revealed that of those young people who have seen sexual images, approximately 87.0% have been exposed to online pornographic images.  Basson further elaborated that comparing these results with previous YRU@BMR studies there has been a significant increase in exposure to pornographic images during the past 5 years.

The significant emotional and behavioural impact of exposure to online pornographic images cannot be ignored.   In this regard, young people experienced mixed feelings (40.0%), struggled to keep up with their schoolwork (8%), or became withdrawn or preoccupied (6%).  Concerningly, it also resulted in young people seeking more access to pornographic images online.  Despite these disturbing findings, young people remain reluctant to get support. According to Basson, the study emphasises the urgent need for increased awareness of the dangers of exposure to online pornographic images and access to appropriate support services dedicated to young people.

Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying remains a concern amongst South African youth, which has been likely to increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.  According to Dr Basson, approximately a third (35.0%) of young people who participated in the YRU@BMR study, reported that incidents of online bullying increased during the COVID-19 pandemic mainly due to an increase in online activity and lack of physical interaction.

Further exploration into incidents of cyberbullying found that most respondents experienced incidents of false statements made about them (60.0%) or threatening messages (32.0%), which were mainly motivated by peer pressure (58.0%) and family problems (31.0%).  Basson further elaborated that family problems came out strongly in the YRU@BMR study.  This resulted from several families been impacted financially due to unemployment which negatively impacted the security of families and affected children in the household.

Despite the identified psychological and social impact of cyberbullying including intense feelings of sadness (38.0%), embarrassment (36.0%), and anger (35.0%), it seems that there is still a lack in responding to reports of cyberbullying and providing appropriate assistance.  This often results in victims taking the matter into their own hands, by taking revenge and engaging in bullying behaviour.

Based on the YRU@BMR research findings there is no doubt that the South African youth are facing several challenges that have been exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Considering the impact of the pandemic, on the wellbeing of the youth, there is an urgent need for creating awareness and providing dedicated support and adequate services focused on the youth.

AN EXPLORATORY NATIONAL STUDY ON YOUTH WELLBEING IN SOUTH AFRICA (Research Report No 524) was compiled by Dr Antoinette Basson (BMR Research Director).

Professional enquiries:
Dr Antoinette Basson
Head: Youth Research Unit
E-mail: abasson@bmr.co.za

Other enquiries:
Ms Madeleine Goetz
Research Administration Manager
E-mail: madeleine.goetz@bmr.co.za

PERSONAL INCOME ESTIMATES FOR SOUTH AFRICA, 2018 – 2023

PERSONAL INCOME ESTIMATES FOR SOUTH AFRICA, 2018 – 2023

The Household Wealth Research Division of the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) (Pty) Ltd released a report on personal income estimates for South Africa of greatest likelihood for the period 2018 to 2022 and a forecast for 2023 outcomes. The BMR income and expenditure model was used to obtain the estimates provided in this report. Population and parameter weights were used to ensure the overall accuracy (validity) of the income estimates of the model.

Total income is estimated to have increased from R5.19 trillion in 2021 to R5.64 trillion in 2022. This reflects an annual increase of 8.7%. The main source of growth originated from investment incomes (recording an annual increase of 30.5%), while the growth in the other sources of income remained relatively muted at close to 5%. Cash flow income also increased by a slightly lower annual rate of 8.5%, increasing from R4.57 trillion in 2021 to R4.96 trillion in 2022. The income estimates imply an estimated annual cash flow income of R113 151 per capita (per person) for the adult population (15+ years) in 2022.


It was estimated that over a quarter (28.1%) of the adult population reside in Gauteng, the economic hub of the country, earning 34.5% of cash flow income, followed by KwaZulu-Natal (18.6%, earning 12.3% of cash flow income) and the Western Cape (12.6%, earning 26.1% of cash flow income) in 2022. More than two-thirds (64.0%) of the cash flow income were generated by nearly a third (29.9%) of the adult population earning salaries and wages as their main source of cash flow income. A positive correlation between educational qualifications and income earning potential and economic empowerment was evident from the analysis as a significant proportion of 48.8% of the cash flow income was generated by a mere 12.9% of the adult population that is estimated to have a tertiary level education.

The analysis reiterated the existence of income inequality in South Africa as 73.7% of the adult population earns below R73 351 per annum (or less than approximately R6 110 per month), accounting for 10.0% of cash flow income. On the other side of the income scale, only 3.3% of the adult population earns more than R625 992 per annum (approximately R52 170 per month), but they earn 44.8% of cash flow income. Additionally, the results showed that 23.0% of the adult population relies mainly on grants as cash flow income source, while 32.1% of the adult population is estimated to not receive any form of cash flow income, thereby depending on in-kind transfers and support from friends and relatives.

Despite the almost equal gender population distribution between the females and males, females remain at the lower end in relation to the cash flow income earnings. It is estimated that less than half (47.3%) of the adult population are male but earn 58.5% of the cash flow income in the country.

Economic and financial conditions are expected to remain volatile for the foreseeable future due to significant pressures on local economic growth, employment creation, and various other downside risks such as loadshedding, rising interest rates, sticky inflation and a weaker exchange rate. The positive trend in total and cash flow income is expected to continue in 2023. An estimated nominal growth rate of 7.2% in total income is expected for 2023, translating to an expected level of R6.0 trillion, while a similar nominal growth rate is expected for cash flow income, increasing to R5.3 trillion. The magnitude of the improvement in personal incomes is expected to be greater for those individuals with investments, including income from dividends, interest, rent, pensions and annuities.

PERSONAL INCOME ESTIMATES FOR SOUTH AFRICA, 2018 – 2023 (Research Report No 529) was compiled by Ms J Meiring (BMR Senior Researcher), Prof CJ van Aardt (BMR Research Director) and Mr A Risenga (BMR Senior Researcher).

Enquiries:
Mrs M Goetz
Research Administration Manager
E-mail: madeleine.goetz@bmr.co.za

 

 

CONSUMER FINANCIAL VULNERABILITY INDEX: Q2 2023

Consumers remain financially vulnerable as interest rates bite

Rising interest rates, high food and fuel prices and load-shedding ensured that consumers remain financially vulnerable in the second quarter of 2023 (Q2 2023). This is despite them reigning in their purchases in Q1 2023 and continuing to do so Q2 2023. Moreover, a prolonged period of financial vulnerability affected their mental state and intensified the deterioration in their family life (in Q2 2023).  This fragile state of consumer finances as witnessed by key informants who deal with consumers daily, is reflected by the Momentum-Unisa Consumer Financial Vulnerability Index (CFVI), which remained below 50 points in Q2 2023.

The CFVI as measured from the views of consumer key informants who deal with consumers daily, increased from 49.1 points in Q1 2023 to 49.3 points in Q2 2023. At 49.3 points the CFVI was barely unchanged from Q1 2023. The CFVI had now been below the level of 50 points for 12 out of the last 15 quarters (since Q3 2019), indicating a persistent state of financial vulnerability.

High inflation and expected inflation contributed to the South African Reserve Bank to increase the repo rate by another 50 basis-points in Q2 2023, following a 75 basis-point increase in Q1 2023. High interest rates directly and indirectly impacted the four subcomponents of the CFVI compared to Q1 2023, with three deteriorating and one improving. In Q2 2023 rising interest rates contributed to higher debt servicing vulnerability. Having to channel more money towards debt servicing while becoming more income vulnerable, consumers sacrificed savings for both emergencies and retirement, negatively affecting their savings vulnerability level. However, consumers were less expenditure vulnerable because they continued to reign in their purchases to be more in accordance with their income, bringing them closer to balanced budgets.

Rising prices and load-shedding remained the risk factors which exerted most pressure on consumer finances during Q2 2023. However, rising interest rates became one of the strongest high-risk factors in Q2 2023 following the interest rate hike in May 2023. Whereas 76.3% of key informants deemed rising interest rates to be a high risk to consumer finances in Q1 2023, this changed to 81.6% in Q2 2023.

Economic and consumer finance outlook

Consumer key informants do not expect an improvement in the state of consumer finances in Q3 2023. With regards to the expectations for the economic environment and consumer finances, the following were the majority views for Q3 2023:

  • 82.7% expect consumer finances to remain at the current vulnerable level or worsen.
  • 84.7% anticipate general prices to increase, whether at the same rate or a slightly slower pace.
  • Around 80% expect the global and domestic economic situation to remain the same or worsen.
  • 72.4% foresee an unchanged or worsening unemployment situation.

Consumer key informants further expect high food and fuel prices to continue exerting pressure on consumer finances in Q3 2023, continuing as top three high-risk factors as identified for Q2 2023. Political instability and corruption are expected to become a top three high-risk factor in Q3 2023, and the impact of high interest rates to increase further.

Please click HERE to download the full report.

 

 

ANNOUNCEMENT OF WINNER AND RUNNERS-UP OF THE 2022 BMR/UNISA ECONOMIST OF THE YEAR COMPETITION

The winner and two runners-up of the 2022 BMR/Unisa Economist of the Year competition were announced during an award ceremony held in Pretoria on the 1st of June. The competition winner and runners-up were identified by an adjudication panel determining which of the 33 participating economists were the most accurate at forecasting the outcomes of eight economic variables for 2022. The winner of the 2022 competition is Mr Ulrich Joubert (an independent economist), who has won this prestigious title of Economist of the Year four times in the past. The runners-up (in no particular order) were Ms Elize Kruger (independent economist) and Mr Emile du Plessis (Finometrica).

When asked for comments during the award ceremony, these top three economists indicated that 2022 was a particularly tough year to produce economic forecasts due to the large number of downside risks and unexpected black swan events impacting the economy. Pertinent factors in this regard included the Russian invasion of Ukraine, escalating Eskom power outages (loadshedding), increasing price inflation, as well as local and international political uncertainty. It was also pointed out by Mr Joubert that these downside risks and black swan events don’t just act in isolation of each other but exacerbate the negative economic impacts in a contemporaneous fashion. An example of this is the Ukraine war giving rise to higher price inflation, which in turn gives rise to the South African Reserve Bank increasing interest rates to address such high inflation, which in turn depresses aggregate demand for goods and services, which in turn gives rise to lower economic growth rates, which in turn gives rise to lower job creation and compensation growth, which in turn impacts negatively on future GDP growth, due to the fact that household consumption expenditure  contributes to more than 60% of national output.

Looking towards 2023, the top three economists expect a very difficult year marked by low economic growth with a high possibility for a recession during the year, sticky high inflation, high interest rates, and depressed household consumption expenditure growth. They were also of the opinion that the number of downside risks to economic growth this year will most likely continue to increase, while further hikes in interest rates are expected to address the depreciating value of the Rand versus the US dollar as well as sticky high inflation rates. The overall expectation with respect to 2023 was that South Africa has to prepare itself for a very tough year ahead on both economic and political fronts. Such uncertainty emphasizes the need and value of the forecasts of the 38 economists who are participating in the 2023 Economist of the Year competition, attempting to bring some enlightenment in a very uncertain 2023 South African economy.

For more information and/or media interviews please contact Ms Pamela de Jongh, pdejongh@bmr.co.za.

A mix of downside risks and upside opportunities predicted for Easter sales of 2023

Additional retail sales value for Easter expected to dip around 1.6% as consumers cut spending on luxuries 

Agile, diversified retailers are expected to benefit from Easter trade as price-sensitive customers eye Easter specials.  

South African retailers are forecast to ring up additional retail sales value of R908 million for the 2023 Easter season, down from the R923 million in extra sales they generated over the same period in 2022. Yet the forecasts also reveal strong revenue generation opportunities for agile retailers that capitalise on consumers’ demand for sweet treats and discounted essentials.

That’s according to research conducted by the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) on behalf of Capital Connect, which reflects the financial strain consumers are taking in a difficult economic climate. For retailers to boost profits, they will need to think outside the box to benefit from the Easter peak trading season as well as leverage opportunities such as innovative, flexible fintech funding.

Retailers in pharmaceutical and medical goods, cosmetics, and toiletries are forecast to be among the winners, with additional Easter sales of R113 million, up from R89 million in 2022. Retailers in textiles, clothing, footwear, and leather goods are also expected to do well, with additional sales value jumping from R155 million in 2022 to R236 million this year.

Retailers in pharmaceutical and medical goods, cosmetics, and toiletries are expected to benefit because they have diversified their product and service ranges to include groceries, appliances, gifts, sweets and confectionery, clothing and footwear, and even spa services. General dealers, by contrast, are coming under pressure from increased competition and consumers cutting discretionary spending.

General dealers will take a knock from a decrease in consumer confidence, with additional sales value for this sector expected to drop from R346 million over the 2022 Easter period to R278 million this year. Specialised food, beverages, and tobacco retailers will see additional sales value dip from R296 million in 2022 to R226 million this year.

Despite the fall in additional retail value forecast for general dealers, they will still claim around 30% of additional sales for Easter 2023. Food, beverages, and tobacco retailers are expected to obtain only 9% of total retail expenditure during 2023 but are projected to claim 25% of total additional sales during Easter 2023.

Says Professor Carel van Aardt, Research Director at the BMR: “Retail sales for Easter 2023 are forecast to hold up relatively well, given high levels of consumer financial vulnerability and low levels of consumer confidence. Despite the economic pressures they face, consumers are still interested in what they could gain from Easter sales this year.”

“It is interesting to note that the Easter sales period seems to be getting longer each year, in much the same way as the Black Friday promotional period has. During 2020, consumer interest in the Easter Season was strong for 35 days from 8 March 2020 to 12 April 2020. This year, we’re expecting to see this interest last for as long as 46 days, meaning retailers will enjoy foot traffic for a longer period.”

Gerhard le Roux, National Head of Capital Growth at Capital Connect, adds: “The new research from BMR reflects a few important mega-trends which should make retailers sit up and pay attention. It’s clear that retailers across the board are diversifying to maintain and grow revenues, which means that every retail SMB needs to be flexible and innovative to get their share of the Easter profit pie.

“Furthermore, consumers are becoming ever-more price sensitive and continue to reduce spending on luxuries. Pricing strategy and specials are more important than ever to remain relevant. Finally, the BMR forecasts that consumers will expect to be able to shop when, how and where they please—whether that’s in-store, online or click-and-collect.”

RETAIL TIPS: Some ways retailers can thrive this upcoming Easter includes:

  • Diversifying their product range to offer more choice and compensate for consumers cutting spending on certain luxuries;
  • Extending store hours to maximise opportunities to win business;
  • Using loyalty cards and rewards schemes to encourage repeat purchases;
  • Using discount-oriented marketing and door buster specials to entice consumers into their stores;
  • Giving consumers an experience in the store (shopper-tainME), such as Easter treats in the coffee shop, an Easter bunny for kids, or cooking and baking classes to prepare a five-star Easter family meal, to give them a reason to visit.

Steven Heilbron, CEO of Capital Connect, says: “As a retailer, you have the opportunity every day to grow your business and move it to the next level. The key to accessing these opportunities is affordable, convenient and hassle-free opportunity capital. With Capital Connect, retailers apply for business funding from the Connected App, choose their desired loan amount of up to R5 million, select their repayment period – and the funds will be in their bank account within 24 hours or less, so that they never miss out on a business opportunity.”

Read full 2023 Easter Report here>

Is it all doom and gloom for the South African economy?

Is it all doom and gloom for the South African economy?

A total of 38 South African top economists are participating in the 2023 Economist of the Year (EoY) competition, co-hosted by the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) and the University of South Africa (Unisa). To take part in the competition, participating economists are required to provide projected estimates with respect to eight variables on a monthly basis. These eight variables include:

  • Average real annual GDP growth rate for 2023 (%).
  • Average consumer inflation rate (CPI) for 2023 (%).
  • Average prime interest rate in Q4 2023 (%).
  • Average ZAR/USD exchange rate in Q4 2023 (ZAR).
  • Average Brent Crude oil price in Q4 2023 (USD).
  • Average real annual household expenditure growth rate for 2023 (%).
  • Average yield on long-term government bonds in Q4 2023 (%).
  • Current Account Balance as % of GDP for 2023 (%).

The consensus forecasts based on the median estimates are determined each month for each of the eight variables. The latest consensus provided during March 2023 is contained in the following table:

Considering the consensus forecasts it is evident that participating economists are in general pessimistic about the South African economy with low economic and household expenditure growth rates being forecasted for 2023. Some cautious optimism is however evident from forecasts for lower consumer price inflation, a stronger Rand-Dollar exchange rate and a lower Brent Crude oil price. The expectations regarding the prime interest rate remaining high throughout 2023 seem to be favourable for those with savings, while less favourable for those with existing debt.

The average real annual GDP growth rate is expected to show very little growth in 2023. Given the large number of downside risks to economic growth including load shedding, grey listing, weak global economic growth, low levels of consumer and business confidence, the possibility of further sovereign rating downgrades by rating agencies, the Russia-Ukraine war, prevailing social and political instability, weak governance (including rampant corruption) and infrastructural challenges, the anticipated low average annual economic growth for South Africa does not come as a surprise. There are, however, some possible positives that might be conducive to the realisation of slightly higher levels of economic growth in South Africa during 2023. Such possibilities include an end to load shedding (or at least less severe load shedding), acceleration of private sector involvement in energy and network infrastructure development, the United States and Europe not experiencing economic recessions during 2023, the Chinese economy performing better than anticipated, and the Russia-Ukraine War coming to an earlier end.

The anticipated decline in consumer price inflation (CPI) towards the fourth quarter is very good news for the economy as a whole and especially for cash strapped financially vulnerable consumers and businesses. While CPI stood at 7% during February 2023, the consensus forecast is 5.7% for Q4 2023 which is not just a substantial decline, but also places the CPI rate within the SA Reserve Bank’s Inflation targeting range of 3-6%. This could imply limited to no further interest rate increases during 2023.

Further good news emanating from the March consensus forecast is that the Rand/Dollar exchange rate is expected to improve from the current level of above R18/USD to about R17.53/USD by Q4 2023. This improvement is despite the various downside risks facing the South African economy (i.e. load shedding, grey listing, etc) as mentioned above.

A holistic view of expectations for all eight variables points to a mixed bag of positives and negatives facing the South African economy from the perspective of the participating economists of the Economist of the Year (EoY) competition. Negative aspects seem to be dominating the expectations currently though. It, however, appeared from an EoY Webinar hosted by the BMR in collaboration with Unisa on 29 March 2023 that although the said predominantly negative picture of the South African economy during 2023 may gave rise to low levels of consumer and business confidence and even pessimism of the future South African economy over the short to medium-term, there are possible reasons for optimism when the economic performance trajectory is viewed from a non-linear instead of a linear perspective. Whereas the economic performance trajectory from a linear perspective appears to be on a downward trend, the economy from a non-linear perspective appears to be volatile with the possibility of the positives surpassing the negatives in the medium to long-term.

Want to know more about the EoY competition | Click here
Want to watch the full EoY Webinar | Click here