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South Africa's Business Landscape: Navigating Through Liquidation Waves in 2024

Published March 31, 2024
1 months ago

As South Africa continues to face economic challenges, the start of 2024 has brought a concerning rise in business liquidations, reflecting the ongoing struggle within the nation's commercial sector. According to the latest statistics from Stats SA, released on 25 March 2024, a total of 247 businesses have already ceased operations in just January and February of this year—an alarming figure compared to the same period in 2023.

During January 2024, there were 109 liquidations, marking a significant increase from the 81 recorded in the corresponding month of the previous year. Though February 2024 saw a slight year-on-year decrease with 138 liquidations, down from 162 in February 2023, the combined tally for the first two months suggests an upward trend in commercial closures.

This uptick in liquidations stands in contrast to the total of 1,657 businesses that shut down in 2023, which itself was considered a relatively better year, possibly due to an economic rebound following the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, industry experts urge caution when interpreting these figures.

Tiaan Herbst, representing Southern African Advisory Company, previously cautioned that while a decline in liquidation numbers could hint at an improving economy, it might also signal businesses barely keeping afloat in what he describes as a 'zombie economy.' This term encapsulates a scenario where companies are neither progressing nor collapsing but merely managing to survive, thus contributing to economic stagnation.

Despite these concerning statistics, there is also evidence suggesting that businesses have adapted to cope with the tough economic conditions and ongoing load-shedding, which has historically hampered small and medium enterprises' operations in particular.

Herbst highlights that a nuanced analysis is necessary to truly understand these trends, as the apparent reduction in liquidations does not inherently equate to an economic upturn. He posits that the business landscape might present a facade of stability against a backdrop of deeper challenges that prevent genuine growth and dynamism within the marketplace.

As of now, stakeholders are observing the South African economy with a watchful eye, seeking indicators that could substantiate the nation's economic direction as 2024 continues to unfold. The rise in liquidations so early in the year has already raised red flags and ignited discussions about potential policy interventions and support mechanisms to aid the business community.

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