South Africa's economy faces uncertain future

By CHEN YINGQUN | China Daily | Updated: 2020-08-18 08:27
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Editor's Note:The world faces huge challenges during the global spread of COVID-19, and maybe even greater ones when it is over. Here, in the 18th part of a series titled "One World, One Fight", we look at how countries can work together to fight the virus and meet the challenges when the pandemic ends.

Doctors inspect a quarantine center in Johannesburg, South Africa, last month. YESHIEL/XINHUA

Unemployment rises, GDP falls during pandemic

For Dellon Francis, the measures taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa-the country worst-hit by the virus on the continent-have been particularly "disturbing and challenging".

Governments worldwide have enforced lockdowns and social distancing regulations, but Francis, founder and operations director of the investment company Capvest Associates, said: "From a cultural perspective, South Africa is a restless nation. We like to be outdoors and don't like to be constrained.

"The situation is also very challenging for companies in South Africa, as many of them don't have systems in place to support working remotely." He added that cases of domestic violence have risen as a result of employees operating from home.

Containment measures have meant that people have been unable to travel, work from offices or socialize for months. Francis said the restrictions have triggered numerous underlying psychological issues that have affected many people.

As of Sunday, there were 583,653 cases of COVID-19 in South Africa, with 11,677 deaths, according to a number of sources. The country has a population of about 58 million.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 1,108,837 confirmed cases on the continent as of Sunday and the death toll was 25,337.

On March 5, South Africa reported its first COVID-19 case, and enforced a national lockdown later that month to curb the spread of the virus. Borders were closed and most people ordered to stay home, apart from those making essential trips.

While there has been a gradual relaxation of the restrictions since May 1, the lockdown measures are reviewed from time to time.

Francis said he has seen many restaurants, shops and real estate agencies close permanently in recent months.

There is still a huge wealth gap in the country, with many people living on less than the equivalent of $15 a week, he said, adding that the amount of poverty in the country, coupled with unrest, is making the battle against the virus more difficult.

"As the outbreak has resulted in lost jobs and many people currently being unable to earn an income, there has also been a lot of unrest and sporadic protests. That's a really important issue for the government to start tackling," he said.

"Many areas of the country don't have basic services such as clean water, electricity and face masks, or sufficient space to maintain social distancing," Francis said. "Unless the government tackles these grassroots problems, there's no way that it can effectively contain the virus."

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