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  • Transactions in South Africa breached R1 trillion in March 2021, according to a report by clearing house for the banking industry, BankServ Africa.
  • The strong performance was despite load shedding.
  • The report, as well as other recent data, shows that the economy may have expanded in the first quarter - contrary to Reserve Bank expectations.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africans are currently spending at a brisk pace, with more than R1 trillion in transactions recorded in March, reports the payment clearing house, BankServAfrica.

The BankservAfrica Economic Transactions Index (BETI), which measures monthly transactions paid into the South African National Payments System, has now reached an all-time high. A record 117 million transactions – with an average value of R8,880 – were processed in March.

Bankserv Africa says this could perhaps be in part due to the removal of cheques in the system, which were most likely replaced with electronic transfers. Since the start of the year, the use of cheques has been officially discontinued in South Africa.

The continued strength in transactions was surprising, given the load shedding in March, BankServ Africa says. But a continued high level of government spending and pent-up demand for certain services, such as holidays and dining out following stringent lockdown measures, may also have supported the pace of spending.

While the Reserve Bank expects that the economy will shrink by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2021, Bankserv Africa now expects growth in that period, “but marginally so”.

New data show some momentum in the economy. Earlier this week, Statistics SA reported a much stronger-than-expected rise in retail sales, which rose by 2.3% in the year to February. This followed ten months of annual declines.

And new mining production numbers show a 0.8% increase in the same period, with the value of mineral sales up 26% - largely due to a 72% increase in the sales of platinum group minerals.

Bankserv Africa says economic activity is not currently spread equally across all sectors.

"For example, record-high rand commodity prices are driving a booming mining sector unlike international tourism, which is still very close to rock bottom. In this sense, economic transactions are like the weather over a large region. Some places have good rains while others have drought.

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