South Africa's economy reaches pre-pandemic size in strong Q1

A person works at ''The Faktory", a fashion design and clothing manufacturing company in Johannesburg, South Africa, March 4, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

PRETORIA, June 7 (Reuters) - South Africa's economy grew more than expected in the first quarter, recovering to the level it was before the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to a strong performance by sectors like manufacturing, data from the statistics agency showed.

The growth trajectory will offer some comfort to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has been under pressure to lift the growth rate.

Gross domestic product grew 1.9% in the first quarter in quarter-on-quarter seasonally adjusted terms and by 3.0% year-on-year unadjusted in the first three months of the year.

Economists had predicted 1.2% quarter-on-quarter growth and a 1.7% year-on-year expansion.

Ramaphosa promised sweeping reforms after he took office in 2018, but COVID and persistent electricity cuts have constrained activity and unemployment hit a record high above 35% last year.

Statistics South Africa said manufacturing grew 4.9% quarter-on-quarter, while the trade, catering and accommodation category expanded 3.1% and agriculture, forestry and fishing 0.8%. Mining and quarrying contracted 1.1%.

GDP was 1.15 trillion rand ($75 billion) in the first quarter of 2022, about the same as in the first quarter of 2020, a presentation showed.

The rand was slightly stronger after the figures were released, trading up 0.4% on the day at 15.3800 versus the dollar at 1003 GMT.

Additional reporting by Anait Miridzhanian in Gdansk Editing by James Macharia Chege

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