Pepkor says vaccines key to job boost in South Africa

‘If we can open 300 stores a year, we’re talking about 3 000 jobs a year … but that we can only do in a growing economy’ – CEO.
Image: Bloomberg

South Africa’s largest clothing retailer sees a successful Covid-19 vaccination rollout as key to reopening the economy and adding new stores, helping to address the world’s highest unemployment rate.

“If we get people vaccinated, the economy can normalise quickly,” Pepkor CEO Leon Lourens said in an interview. “If the economy normalises, we can create jobs.”

The government temporarily imposed strict restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus from March 2020, but subsequent waves of infections have forced some measures to remain in place. Those include caps on gatherings both indoors and outdoors, preventing major sports events with fans. Meanwhile, South Africa is cut off from many parts of the world due to travel curbs, hammering the tourist industry.

The economy went on to contract the most in at least 27 years in 2020, extending its longest downward cycle since World War II.

“That’s not good enough for an emerging economy like ours,” Lourens said. “The current unemployment levels are just not sustainable.

“We cannot continue like this.”

Africa’s most industrialised nation was slow to purchase vaccines and has still only fully inoculated about 19% of its adult population. The major challenge has since shifted from a shortage of supply to weak demand, health officials have warned, with hesitancy and sCepticism widespread.

Large mining companies are trying to combat hesitancy and many are offering onsite vaccinations. Still, South Africa’s failure to grow the economy is likely to exacerbate the country’s jobs crisis, said Neal Froneman, the chief executive officer of Sibanye Stillwater, the country’s largest mining-industry employer.

“The government has a view that they can solve unemployment by investing in massive infrastructure projects, but they don’t have the capacity and the competence to do that,” he said in an interview.

Pepkor, along with many other South African companies, is battling to recover from violent unrest that rocked the country in July. With about 550 of its shops damaged, the retailer still hopes to stick to its annual store opening program of about 300 outlets a year alongside an ambitious refurbishment plan.

Read: Pepkor on refurb spree after riots shutter stores

“If we can open 300 stores a year, we’re talking about 3,000 jobs a year that we create,” Lourens said. “But that we can only do in a growing economy.”

If the South African economy continues to suffer, the risk of further social unrest remains, he said.

“It’s just not possible for our economy to be in a good condition while our whole tourism sector is gone, while all big events are gone,” he said. “People often forget, and this is not even in the employment numbers, but for every theater production, every wedding, every sports game, the informal sector works at those events.”

Read: Steinhoff kicks off settlement proceedings

© 2021 Bloomberg

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What logic ! Even if every person in South Africa gets fully
” vaccinated ” ( However often ) – you still have the ANC millstone – that diligently engineered most of the present economic misery around your neck.

Quite frankly, before any business in the Steinhoff stable makes statements, return Tekkie Town to it’s rightful owners, pay back the money to investors that Jooste conned, then and only then do you have a right to release statements.. Arrogance diminishes wisdom

Steinhof has left a bad taste in everyones mouths, much like the ANC has since ‘94

So, to the ANC and Jooste et al looters, there’s no hope in our lovely country whilst we have conmen and women on the loose who have not been served

Laughable!! More desperation by the paid shills to push the quackcine. Probably got a donation from, Bill Gates.

Re Bill Gates: yes! I got the Pfizer jabs (plural) and now I get holographic Windows 10 for free! Do you actually realise how you are being manipulated?

Serious logic problems with this dude.
It is NOT the virus of Covid that is preventing growth in this country but the ANC virus for which there is no vaccine yet !!!

“…but the ANC virus for which there is no vaccine yet !!!”

There is a vaccine for this virus; it’s called the “ballot box” but like the dumb as they come anti-vaxers, the SA public won’t make the cross in the right square.

Having listened (carefully not optimistically) to Ramaphosa & Phaahla, neither one states categorically get vaccinated & enjoy freedoms. No promises of lockdown lifting, or curfew or events or any sign of normal. Only ‘if’s, might’s, maybe’s & perhaps”. Expect on past behaviour that there will be no freedoms granted only more goal-shifting.

In that atmosphere why would I then become a medical experiment with no trade-offs?

Unless govt sees this as part of the long plan to squash the expected civil disobedience that will come (for whatever reason e.g. vaccine doesn’t work?)

We should be given points for each attempted post that has been summarily deleted because it does not promote injection. I have double figures already.

End of comments.

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