South African business confidence slumped to all-time low in April showing the economic impact of the first month of a nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
A sentiment index compiled by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry fell to 77.8 from 89.9 the previous month, the business group said in a statement sent by text message Thursday. That’s the lowest since the index started in 1985 and even worse than the median estimate of 80 by three economists in a Bloomberg survey.
South Africa implemented one of the most severe lockdowns in the world from March 27. For five weeks, almost all activity expect essential services were shuttered and most citizens were only allowed to leave their homes to buy food, seek medical care and collect welfare grants. It moved from the maximum disease-alert level 5 to a national level 4 on May 1, allowing the phased reopening of some businesses and industries, subject to strict precautions.
The group Business for South Africa, whose members include Sacci, Business Unity South Africa and Business Leadership South Africa, has urged the government to accelerate its phased approach to restarting the activity. The economy could contract by as much as 16.1% this year and shed more than 7 million jobs, depending on how long it takes to contain the coronavirus pandemic and for the economy to recover to the end of 2020, Treasury estimates showed.