South Africa’s economy expanded in the final quarter of last year driven by a recovery in agriculture and manufacturing, data showed on Tuesday, a boost for President Cyril Ramaphosa who is battling to ignite growth.
The economy has struggled to gain traction despite promises of sweeping reforms made by Ramaphosa after he took office in 2018, with persistent electricity cuts choking growth, among other woes.
Statistics South Africa said gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1.2% quarter on quarter in the last three months of 2021 following a contraction of 1.7% in the third quarter.
The economy grew by 4.9% in the 2021 calendar year after contracting by 6.4% in 2020, the statistics agency said.
A series of arson attacks and looting affected the country, following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court.
2021 recorded an increase compared to a 6.4% contraction in GDP in 2020 when the country entered the pandemic as it was already in recession.
These economic difficulties are reflected in the record unemployment rates recorded in 2021: from 34.9% in October, it reached up to 65% among young people, according to the latest official statistics.
Agriculture expanded by 12.2% quarter on quarter, manufacturing by 2.8% and retail trade sales by 2.9%. But mining contracted by 3.1%, construction by 2.2% and finance by 0.8%.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted Ramaphosa's efforts and pressure has built for his government to take corrective action after the unemployment rate hit a record high of nearly 35% last year.
The finance ministry expects economic growth of 2.1% this year, rate officials and economists have said is far below the level required to make a meaningful dent in unemployment and poverty.