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June 6, 2019 --South Africa's economy is in the dumps. Economic forecasts are not encouraging. 

First, take a look at the nation's currency, the rand. 

How did the value of the rand slide from $1.40 in 1982 to about seven cents today?

Historically, the rand (ZAR) was stable. It was worth $1.40 (USD) from its inception in 1961 until 1982. When the apartheid system fell in 1994, the rand fell with it. It would require 3.55 rand to buy one dollar worth of goods.  By 2015 the rand had fallen to a ratio of 12.016 to one dollar. Today, about 15 rand will buy one dollar. That is, the rand is worth less that seven cents ($0.067). 

[Listen to Radio Free South Africa with host Schalk van der Merwe]

From ▼

A big downside surprise in South Africa’s Q1 gross domestic product (GDP) pushed the rand down by 172bps in the morning trade (as of 9:28am, according to Bloomberg LP). The yearly growth was flat in real terms, contrary to expectations of a small expansion (0.6% year-on-year). This is a significant slowdown compared to the previous quarter (1.1% year-on-year, see chart below), and the latest activity surveys—the Absa Manufacturing PMI dropped to 45.4 in May—suggest that the weakness might continue in Q2 before showing signs of stabilization in H2. Today’s release is an argument in favor of a policy rate cut in July. However—and more worryingly—it also resurrected discussions about changing the central bank’s mandate to target growth and jobs.


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