TIPS Tracker: The economy and the pandemic 24 August - 6 September

This TIPS tracker highlights important trends in the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, and how they affect the economy. It analyses publically available data, research and media reports to identify current developments and reflect on the prognosis for the contagion, the economy, and policy responses.

Over the next few months, the Tracker will explore the challenges facing different industries, starting in this issue with steel and tourism.


On the pandemic

  • The number of new diagnoses of COVID-19, which started to decline rapidly in mid-July, levelled out at an average of just over 2 000 a day in the week to 6 September. In contrast to the move to Levels 4
    and 3, however, three weeks after Level 2 started on 18 August reported infections had not risen sharply.
  • A review of international data shows that countries with higher reported death rates from COVID-19 can also expect a sharper economic decline. Countries with lower death rates, in contrast, generally also had better economic results. The lowest reported death rates emerged in two kinds of countries: in states that controlled the spread of the pandemic through strong public health measures; and in low-income economies characterised by limited international air links, largely rural populations, and low testing rates

On the economy

  • The move to Level 2 brought an initial increase in economic activity. Overall, the available indicators suggest that economic activity has returned to around 10% below pre-pandemic levels. The Western Cape, however, continues to lag behind.
  • The recovery has run up against loadshedding by Eskom. Yet government expects to finalise its emergency acquisition of 2 000 MW of new power from private suppliers only in mid-2022.
  • Case studies of steel and tourism underscore that economic recovery will require more than broad government measures to control the pandemic, stimulate demand and fix the electricity supply. In many industries, new business models are required to survive, and that imposes touch choices around write-offs of assets and employment. The particularly stark challenges facing tourism help explain the relatively slow recovery of the Western Cape economy.

Download the Tracker or read online