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At a time when many small businesses in South Africa are already struggling as a result of the recession, the global COVID-19 crisis is a bolt out of the blue. It is an event that has caught even the best prepared businesses by surprise, and it is a genuine existential threat for many of the small businesses we deal with in our daily lives.
Despite the country falling into recession, coupled with a dim economic outlook, it is not all doom and gloom for small businesses. For many small businesses the outlook for the year ahead seems bleak due to a lower forecast for economic growth globally, challenging local trading conditions owing to inconsistent power supply, currency volatility and rising operating costs, amongst several factors. However, opportunities still exist for SMEs who are agile.
In the midst of a recessionary domestic economy, favourable inflation outlook and lower oil prices, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) got room to cut interest rates by 100 basis points to 5.25%. A rate cut, downside inflation outlook and supportive rand boost agriculture rebound.
There is a distinct lack of good news at the moment, and certainty is in short supply. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Europe, the Middle East and North America, and we have to assume it will continue spreading at a rapid rate.
Fears around the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has spilled into financial markets. The coronavirus outbreak has rapidly approached global pandemic levels, and given the knock-on effects of the virus on economic growth, the fireworks in markets were inevitable.
Nerina van Niekerk is 24 and lives in Stellenbosch, some 52 kilometres from Cape Town, capital of one of Africa’s most wired provinces. In the Western Cape, 75% of people who are 16 and upwards have access to the internet. This compared to Gauteng, at 55%.
With GDP up 3.1% in the second quarter of 2019 (seasonally adjusted, annualised) and 0.9% for the year to June 2019, the markets have responded positively. The rand appreciated by some 10 cents on publication of the data and bonds yields declined by about 10 basis points.
The Q4 2018 GDP growth numbers are encouraging in light of the tough environment that we have just emerged from. Given that we came out of a technical recession in 2018, the turnaround to see positive growth for the full year is heartening. And while it may still not be enough to address many of our structural issues, the positive signs are likely to keep the rating agencies at bay.
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