Picture: 123RF/PHIVE2015
Picture: 123RF/PHIVE2015

Economic activity, reflected in electronic payments transactions, plummeted to its lowest level on record during April, as SA’s economy went all but dormant during full lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The BankservAfrica Economic Transaction Index (BETI) — which tracks interbank electronic payment transactions under R5m — saw the biggest decline in its history across monthly, quarterly and annual levels, data showed on Wednesday.

During April the BETI declined 13.9%, on an annual basis, 15.2% on a quarter-on-quarter basis, while the index fell 12.3% from the month before.

The nominal value of transactions plunged 12.9% to R709.2bn, values not seen since February 2006.

“The latest data provides a clear and broad indication of an economic collapse due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent nationwide lockdown,” Mike Schüssler, chief economist at economists.co.za, said in a statement on the data.

May’s numbers will likely be similar, he said “which means the SA economy will have lost the advances it has made over the last 14 years.”

Though SA entered stage 4 lockdown at the beginning of May, concern is mounting over the ability of businesses to survive the lockdown measures and the effects they will have on SA’s already record levels of unemployment.

Research done for the Treasury and presented to parliament suggests that anywhere between three-million and seven-million jobs could be lost, depending on the severity and extent of the lockdown.

donnellyl@business.co.za