Index shows South Africa’s economy is shrinking

The BankservAfrica Economic Transactions Index (BETI) slumped in November, pointing to another month of sluggish economic activity in a slowing South African economy.

The recorded economic transactions, measured by the automated clearinghouse, decreased from 127.3 to 125 points in November, the lowest level since February 2021. There was a 1.7%
quarterly decline while the seasonally adjusted real monthly change for the value of transactions shrank by 1.8%.

“With four of the last six months recording monthly real declines on a seasonally adjusted basis, and with one month recording no change, the current South African economy seems to be declining again,” said Mike Schüssler, chief economist at Economists.co.za.

“At 125, the BETI Index for November 2021 was a 2.3 point fall from October 2021 – and a further 6.2 point decline from September 2021,” said Shergeran Naidoo, BankservAfrica’s head of Stakeholder Engagements. “In the last three months, the BETI numbers have weakened.”

BankservAfrica processes and settles millions of interbank transactions daily, and therefore provides a good indication of the movements in the local economy through the BETI, which is a nowcast indicator of the direction of the economic flow.

The BETI also recorded a quarterly decline in September 2021, echoing Stats SA’s reported GDP fall of 1.5%.

Quarter-on-quarter percentage change in the BETI and SARB Co-Incident Index

The highest point in the BETI level for 2021 was in August – a very strong, unusual month featuring a healthy rebound after the July unrest and riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, BankservAfrica said. Since August, however, the overall BETI level has declined by 4.7%.

Load shedding has been a major challenge for the South African economy, along with other issues such as water outages and cable theft, the group said.

In November 2021, load shedding reared its ugly head again – but the economic transactions slowdown was already there in October. Although the Municipal Elections on 1 November 2021 provided some relief, load shedding before and after the elections played a role in increasing inactivity in the economy.

“Overall, the BETI indicates that 2021 has been a year of two halves: the first half recording an increasing GDP and the second half reflecting a declining economy,” said Schüssler.

BankservAfrica noted that the average value per transaction was 8% lower year-on-year in nominal terms, due to the higher inflation. The standardised nominal value of transactions remains above R1 trillion and stood at R1 061 trillion in November 2021 – the second-highest on record.

Quarterly percentage change of South Africa GDP and BETI (2019 – 2021)


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Index shows South Africa’s economy is shrinking