Lilongwe – The late-July riots in South Africa have cost that country and others in the region billions of dollars in economic losses, with neighbouring states most affected.
The impact of the looting, pillaging and disruptions to production and trade have resulted in countries in Southern Africa increasingly looking at ways of becoming less economically reliant on South Africa.
The mayhem was ostensibly triggered by protests over the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court stemming from a probe into allegations of corruption during his tenure from 2009 to 2018. However, they quickly descended into an orgy of violence that left more than 300 people dead and prompted the government to deploy 25,000 soldiers to help the police restore order.
South Africa is the continent’s second biggest economy and the largest in Southern Africa, and the chaos in that country resulted in trade and supply disruptions in several countries in the region.
Its own economy has been hit hard, and Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told the media this week that the country lost around US$3.4 billion in output and 150,000 jobs had been placed at risk.
South Africa’s Port of Durban links that country to the wider 16-member SADC bloc.
The riots immediately expressed themselves by way of fuel shortages in eSwatini and Lesotho.
In Namibia, Industry and Trade Minister Lucia Iipumbu said the country needed to relook its trade regime and agricultural sector after distribution chains were hurt by the riots.
“The ripple effect of this disruption will spill over into Namibia in the short to medium-term. It greatly affects the supply of goods to Namibia, which will result in food shortages, and subsequently prices will increase,” the minister stressed.
Arid and semi-arid Namibia imports the bulk of its agricultural produce from South Africa, and is also reliant on the country for pharmaceutical products as well as other goods and services.
The riots have seen the government upping the emphasis on its “Buy Local, Grow Namibia” campaign to enhance domestic capacities and value chains.
“It is through efforts such as this one that Namibia will realise the importance of procuring locally produced products, which would promote productive capacity,” Minister Iipumbu said. “Local productive capacities in terms of food can be leveraged to fill some gaps, while the situation returns to normality in our neighbouring country.”
Statistics from the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) show that the country imports 58 percent of its raw materials from South Africa and channels 65 percent of its exports through its neighbour.
Mrs Sekai Kuvarika, the CZI chief executive said, “We may not be able to immediately quantify the impact, but Zimbabwe’s industry is certainly going to be affected in the short to medium-term … The closure of the major routes used for the transportation of raw materials and other goods – though they may now have reopened – means that production will be affected.”
Mr Prosper Chitambara of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe added: “It is important in the medium to long-term for Zimbabwe to make use of other routes for imports, especially those that do not necessarily originate from South Africa. It is clear that too much reliance on South Africa can have serious negative consequences, as we are seeing in the current scenario.”