The ABSA Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.2 points in March from 51.7 in February, crossing below the line that separates expansion from contraction, ABSA said in a release. Despite the fluctuation, ABSA says there was a positive note in the survey: respondents expressed the most optimism about expected business conditions since the start of 2023

“When you look closely, you’ll see that the main drivers were sluggish demand,’’ Sello Seleke, macro economist at ABSA told CNBC Africa’s Fifi Peters. But…“we also saw something quite interesting. So in terms of supply delivery times, we saw that shortening. So what this says, which is quite positive in recent context, is that it shows that, your supply chains are getting better.’’

 South Africa’s economy is struggling to recover from record power shortages last year and an uncertain economic environment as the country heads to elections that some analysts are predicting may end the 30-year majority rule of the African National Congress. The vote will be held on May 29.

In March, the supplier deliveries index declined to 54.1 from 62, suggesting an improvement in congestion at local ports which have been crippled by crime and corruption. Another positive development was the improvement in the index tracking business conditions in six months’ time which rose to 62.1 points, the highest since the beginning of last year.