Lagos, Nigeria. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
Lagos, Nigeria. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Abuja — The worst may be over for Africa’s two largest economies as it is likely that they emerged from a slump in the second quarter.

Official data on Tuesday will probably show that SA’s economy expanded in the three months to the end of June, ending its second recession in less than a decade. Nigeria’s GDP probably grew from a year earlier, and came out of its worst slump in a quarter of a century.

SA and Nigeria together account for almost half of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP and their recoveries may boost trade and production across the region. The reasons differ: while Nigeria, the continent’s biggest oil producer, is benefiting from a rebound in crude output, stronger retail sales may help drive growth in SA.

"In both cases a lot of the ‘recovery’ is due to things bouncing back from very poor performances in the reference quarter," John Ashbourne, an economist at Capital Economics, said in an e-mailed response to questions. "But that’s not all. In both cases, there is some real growth." SA’s economy probably expanded an annualised 2.3% in the three months to the end of June from the previous quarter, according to the median estimate of 20 economists in the survey. Nigerian GDP is likely to have grown 1.3% from a year earlier after contracting for five straight quarters, a separate survey shows.

More dollars A drop in the output and price of oil, Nigeria’s largest export, and a lack of foreign currency weighed on West Africa’s largest economy in 2016. The naira weakened after new rules allowing foreign-exchange dealers to quote naira levels used in actual trades came into place, and increased inflows alleviated some of the dollar shortages.

Economic growth in Nigeria will "return to positive territory in the second quarter, on the back of a recovery in oil production, solid agriculture growth and an improvement in foreign-currency liquidity," Yvonne Mhango, an economist at Renaissance Capital, said in an e-mailed response to questions. "We expect the recovery and growth to be fragile." SA’s economic woes were exacerbated by President Jacob Zuma’s dismissal of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, which led to Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings cutting the nation’s foreign-currency debt to junk in April. The central bank halved its GDP growth forecast for the year to 0.5% in July.

Agriculture and mining were the only two industries that expanded in the first quarter and both continued to perform well in the three months to the end of June. Farming output was boosted by the end of the worst drought in more than a century and mining benefited from rising commodity prices.

"I don’t think it’s the start of a renewed growth cycle, but I think that the fear that we are heading for a deep recession has been abated," Stanlib Asset Management economist Kevin Lings said by phone.

Bloomberg

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