South Africans are running out of money – Debt spiral warning for consumers in South Africa


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[The scale of the debt from normal people is becoming crazy. Jan]

The latest Eighty20/XDS Credit Stress Report for the fourth quarter of 2022 shows an increasing appetite for credit among South Africans, with more than 800,000 new entrants into the credit market over the period.

However, this has come with a surging number of loans, notably credit card, VAF and home loans, that are newly in default.

“This compares with 600,000 the previous year, signalling a deepening debt spiral among over 18 million consumers – more than one-third of the population,” the group said.

Even more worrying is that these new entrants took out R9.3 billion in new loan value, the highest in more than 2 years, and up nearly 10% on last year.

In addition, there has also been a significant surge in credit card balances with total loan balances up R25 billion (12%) year-on-year.

This brings the total credit active population to 18.7 million with total loan balances of a staggering R2.3 trillion.

According to CEO of Debt Rescue, Neil Roets, these figures show that South Africans are increasingly turning to credit to survive the relentless onslaught of cost-of-living increases “that seemingly have no end in sight”.

South African households have had to contend with rising consumer price inflation – which hit 7.0% in February 2023; higher interest rates – with another 25 basis point hike expected next week; and a flurry of price hikes on the way, particularly electricity.

“With inflation figures coming in outside of the South African Reserve Bank’s inflation target range of between 3−6% since May 2022, even though we have seen a sliding decrease since November 2022, the recent increase has caught everyone off guard, dashing hopes of economic stability in the near future,” Roets said.

“During National Credit Education Month in March, it is pertinent to highlight the most important right consumers should demand – a stable economy where all South Africans can prosper, and a stop to the relentless cost-of-living increases that are decimating people’s lives. The sad fact is that nobody seems to be listening anymore,” he he said.

Roets said that South Africans are fighting a daily battle to simply survive, with the cost of living crisis leaving many households with nowhere to turn but “the bottomless pit of debt”.

“The elephant in the room is, of course, the many millions more who are not credit compliant, and are simply hanging on by their fingernails,” he said.

The latest statistics shared by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity group’s (PMEJD), show an alarming percentage – more than half (55.5%) of South Africa’s total population, amounting to 30.4 million people – who live below the country’s upper-bound poverty line of R1,417 per month.

Added to this is the figure of more than a quarter (25.2% – or 13.8 million) living below the food poverty line of R663.

“In the face of this scenario, it goes without saying that consumers can simply not afford any more price shocks, and, considering the impending 18.65% increase to electricity rates in April, the expected repo rate hike at the end of March, and the anticipated petrol price hike next month, it is clear that the country is at a tipping point and heading for a catastrophe,” he said.


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