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SAfrica GDP growth slows to 1.3% in first quarter

South Africa’s gross domestic product slowed to a disappointing 1.3 percent in the first months of 2015, official data showed Tuesday, as rolling power cuts dampened manufacturing output.

The quarter-on-quarter figure announced by Statistics South Africa was sharply below growth of 4.1 percent in the last quarter of 2014 as the country struggles with an electricity crisis and high unemployment.

The manufacturing industry fell 2.4 percent, while agriculture has been badly hit by the effects of a severe drought.

“Manufacturing has yielded results that are negative,” said statistician-general Pali Lehohla speaking over a video link from Cape Town to reporters in Pretoria, the country’s administrative capital.

“It’s a little tricky whether it is because of electricity or because there is subdued demand from manufacturers,” said Lehohla.

“Of course electricity as a major driver of production — its absence dampens the production.”

Load-shedding — regularly scheduled power cuts to reduce energy usage — has become part of everyday life for many people and companies in South Africa.

State-owned power company Eskom, which generates more than 95 percent of the country’s electricity, has been weakened by years of underinvestment and ageing infrastructure, as well as governance problems.