The country's economy, which is already in bad shape, is likely to contract even more.
On March 15, South Africa closed its borders with all countries at risk. Wednesday, March 18, all schools in the country will be closed. At the same time, all gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited. While the country has yet to die, the number of coronavirus patients continues to grow. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on March 15 that the country had 61 cases and that transmission within the country had started.
At the same time, the president announced accompanying measures to support the national economy, because of course the consequences are likely to be severe for an already vacillating country. “This will consist of a series of measures, notably fiscal measures, which will be taken in agreement with entrepreneurs and the trade union world “, said Cyril Ramaphosa.
The closing of the borders, which is also understood by the suspension of air links, will considerably affect tourism in the country. A total of 35 land entry points and six of the eight ports are expected to be closed.
First consequence, the Johannesburg stock exchange (JSE) unscrewed on March 16 and lost 6% reaching its lowest level since 2013. And the worst is probably still to come. The rand, the national currency, lost 1.94% against the dollar. However, the country is struggling in a never-ending crisis.
Almost a third of the population (29.1%) is already unemployed. The mining sector, essential for the country, continues to reduce its workforce. In a context of falling prices, companies have to face a lack of competitiveness. Eskom, the national electricity company, multiplies the cuts, unable to supply the network, which obviously impacts the production of companies.
The South African economy was already suffering from the slowdown of its Chinese partner. “Sales of iron, manganese and chromium represent two-thirds of South Africa's total exports to China“says AFP. This indicates whether the slowdown in the Chinese economy will be felt. The Chinese market absorbs 450 million euros of South African metals every month. This dependence is revealed in the following anecdoteante : by blocking its lobster purchases, Beijing caused the price of crustacean sold almost entirely on the Chinese market to drop by two thirds.
By closing its borders, Pretoria is also depriving itself of the other windfall essential to the economy, tourism. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the sector contributes directly and indirectly to 10% of South African GDP and reported in 2018 to the country 139 billion rand (7.5 billion euros), reports AFP.
However, the air closure targets Western countries and China. A large part of the clientele of the famous and numerous “Safari lodges” of South Africa. The tourism sector employs more than 700 000 people directly and 2.5 million indirectly according to figures from the Africa Renewal site. In 2016, ten million tourists visited the country, underlines the same site.
In South Africa, as in many other countries, the authorities are warning people. The next two to three weeks will be crucial, said Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize. And if the measures taken are not enough to stem the spread of the virus, more drastic measures will be taken, including containment.