Some business experts are urging South African companies to use the coming economic recovery after the coronavirus lockdowns to take advantage of the opportunities that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) presents.

The economy recorded a second consecutive quarter of growth in the fourth quarter after plummeting in the second quarter of last year during the hard lockdown.

New figures released by Stats SA show the economy recorded a better than expected 6.3% annualised growth rate in the fourth quarter.

Manufacturing, agriculture, and construction were the biggest drivers of growth.

“This is positive news for the ACFTA. As we are aware, its doors opened on the 1st of Jan. This is good news for SA. For local SMMEs, the focus should be on those sectors that have shown vital signs like the agricultural sector. We all know that the sector is key in taking poor countries out of poverty,” says Executive Dean of the University of South Africa School of Business, Professor Pumela Msweli.

The recorded 6.3% growth is above market expectations of a 5% growth figure.

However, StatsSA says the overall Gross Domestic Product for the entire year, which includes the recovery in the fourth quarter, actually fell 7% in 2020: 

This is much better than the 10% economic contraction some had feared for the year that was devastated by the pandemic.

“In terms of the industries, all of them showed positive growth followed finance and mining that showed negative contribution. We must remember that mining recorded huge job losses,” says Statistician-General Resenga Maluleka.