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BETI shows local economy is shrinking

14 December 2021 BankservAfrica

The BankservAfrica Economic Transactions Index (BETI) slumped in November, signalling another month of sluggish economic activity in a slowing economy. However, the higher monthly volume of transactions tracked in the BETI tells a different story of the growing use of digital payments.

“At 125, the BETI Index for November 2021 was a 2.3 point fall from October 2021 – and a further 6.2 point decline from September 2021,” says Shergeran Naidoo, BankservAfrica’s Head of Stakeholder Engagements. “In the last three months, the BETI numbers have weakened.”

On a quarterly basis, there was a 1.7% decline as the seasonally adjusted real monthly change for the value of transactions shrank by 1.8%.

“With four of the last six months recording monthly real declines on a seasonally adjusted basis, and with one month recording no change, the current South African economy seems to be declining again,” says Mike Schüssler, Chief Economist at Economists.co.za.

BankservAfrica processes and settles millions of interbank transactions daily, and therefore provides a good indication of the movements in the South African economy through the BETI, which is a nowcast indicator of the direction of the economic flow.

In September 2021, the BETI also recorded a quarterly decline in September 2021, echoing Stats SA’s reported GDP fall of 1.5%.

The highest point in the BETI level for 2021 was in August – a very strong, unusual month featuring a healthy rebound after the July unrest and riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Since August, the overall BETI level has declined by 4.7%.

Load shedding has been a major challenge for the South African economy, along with other issues such as water outages and cable theft.

In November 2021, load shedding reared its ugly head again - but the economic transactions slow down was already there in October. Although the Municipal Elections on 1 November 2021 provided some relief, load shedding before and after the elections played a role in increasing inactivity in the economy.

Indicative of the growing preference for digital payments in South Africa, the number of transactions tracked in November 2021 was 125.8 million. However, the average value per transaction was 8% lower year-on-year in nominal terms, due to the higher rate of inflation.

“The standardised nominal value of transactions remains above R1 trillion and stood at R1 061 trillion in November 2021 – the second-highest on record,” says Naidoo.

Some of the transactional increases could be due to the full implementation of the DebiCheck system in November 2021. DebiCheck seems to have contributed to the 14.4% annual growth in transactions. However, Real Time Clearing (RTC) volumes increased by 63.3%, signalling the ongoing uptick in digital payments.

Another reason for the November transactional growth could be the Black Friday specials that ran throughout the month of November 2021, as well as Cyber Monday.

“Overall, the BETI indicates that 2021 has been a year of two halves: the first half recording an increasing GDP and the second half reflecting a declining economy,” ends Schüssler.

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