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Country Forecast South Africa September 2017 Updater

Country Forecast South Africa September 2017 Updater

  • September 2017
  • ID: 1698387
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit


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  • The African National Congress (ANC) will remain the dominant political force and is likely to retain power at the next election in 2019, albeit with a smaller majority than in 2014. The president, Jacob Zuma, remains under pressure because of a series of corruption scandals and the ANC's relatively poor showing in municipal elections in 2016.
  • The ANC is deeply divided into pro- and anti-Zuma factions, which are evenly matched, helping to explain Mr Zuma's survival. The ANC's five-year electoral summit in December, when Mr Zuma will stand down as party leader (but not as national president), will have a decisive influence on the political scene.
  • Policymakers face the difficult task of boosting economic growth within a context of global uncertainty, while avoiding macroeconomic imbalances. Adding to the challenge, South Africa's loss of its investment-grade credit rating will dent confidence and may lead to tighter monetary policy. Fiscal policy is now less certain, but any relaxation of spending restraints, despite offering a short-term stimulus, would risk higher debts and taxes.
  • The main medium-term challenge is to overcome structural constraints to faster growth, such as infrastructure bottlenecks and skills shortages. Targeted industrial incentives will therefore stay in place and infrastructure investment will remain a priority, although wasteful spending poses a threat.
  • Compliance with black economic empowerment (BEE) targets will remain a challenge for corporates, especially given ongoing changes to the legal framework. The presidency's call for "radical economic transformation" will raise the level of policy uncertainty, especially in regard to BEE and land reform, to the detriment of private investment.
  • We have kept our real GDP growth forecast for 2017 at 0.8% following a recent downward revision stemming from a range of weak indicators. Prospects for 2018-21 remain relatively weak but with an improving trend. Growth will remain subdued in 2019, owing to a cyclical slowdown in the US and uncertainties surrounding the next South African general election. Thereafter, growth will edge up to 2.1% in 2020 and 2.5% in 2021, helped by the completion of major infrastructure projects in transport and energy, and a US rebound.
  • More positively, South Africa will no longer be short of electricity after new plant openings. Inflation breached the central bank's 3-6% target range in 2016, owing to drought, but will stay within the target band in 2017-21, despite possible temporary breaches.

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