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S.Africa says economy to shrink 7.2% in 90-year low

South Africa’s economy is projected to shrink by a 90-year low of 7.2 percent in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the finance minister said Wednesday.

Presenting a supplementary budget in parliament, Tito Mboweni said South Africa’s economy, the most developed in the continent, “is now expected to contract by 7.2 per cent in 2020.”

“This is the largest contraction in nearly 90 years,” he said.

South Africa has the highest recorded numbers of coronavirus infections in sub-Saharan Africa, with 106,108 cases, including 2,102 fatalities.

It had already slipped into recession in the final quarter of 2019 before the virus arrived.

The pandemic prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to impose a strict lockdown, which kicked in on March 27 and has gradually been eased in phases since May 1 to allow economic activity to pick up.

The country’s statistics agency announced on Tuesday that the unemployment rate rose one percentage point to 30.1 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the last three months of 2019.

The jobless rate is a record high, said statistics boss Risenga Maluleke.

The World Bank has already warned that sub-Saharan Africa could slip into its first recession in 25 years because of the pandemic.