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The recent riots and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have starkly illuminated both the strengths and vulnerabilities of the retail sector, and that South Africans by and large depend on the smooth running of these supply chains for not only putting bread on the table but also for the survival of the economy. Retail trade accounts for a big slice of SA’s GDP, at 15%, and employs 20% of the workforce. It has been targeted by the government as a pivotal component in the economy’s recovery.

The predicted impact of the unrest on the economy is estimated at R50bn, not to mention the likely greater long-term damage. According to the Treasury, this devastating event will result in almost 1% being shaved off GDP in 2021. Furthermore, in the biggest month-on-month drop since April 2020, July retail sales plunged 11.2%, resulting in spiralling insurance premiums for businesses and real concern about surviving through another riot...

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