In this time of crisis, we are often reminded of a famous quote attributed to Winston Churchill during World War II: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” While South Africa is not in the middle of a physical war, it is battling the COVID-19 crisis in full force. Like most other countries, South Africa could not escape the pandemic.

It suffered the loss of lives and livelihoods. At the time of writing, in early July 2021, more than 64,000 South Africans have lost their lives. The third wave is hitting the country very hard and infections keep rising every day. But there is also light at the end of a very long tunnel.

The government responded swiftly and strongly to the crisis while also spearheading an international alliance for the distribution of vaccines in Africa. If the South African government would carry out with the same determination long-standing economic reform as it was fighting the pandemic, COVID-19 could serve as a turning point in reenergizing South Africa’s economy and labor market. While South Africa is set to emerge from the crisis weaker than it was going into it, the World Bank’s South Africa Economic Update argues that the reasons for low growth and high unemployment do not lie in the government’s crisis response. Instead, the pandemic has exposed long-standing structural weaknesses that have progressively worsened since the global financial crisis of 2008–09.

For 2021, the World Bank projects a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4 percent, followed by 2.1 percent in 2022 and 1.5 percent in 2023. South Africa’s weak recovery is putting pressure on public finance. For the first time ever, public debt is now at almost 80 percent of GDP and under the current trajectory debt levels will not stabilize before 2026. However, the current global recovery is helping South Africa, especially the strong rebound in China and the United States—two of its key trading partners. As other emerging markets are recovering faster, South Africa’s economy could have benefited more in 2021 if integration with the rest of the world was stronger.

Read the full article about South Africa COVID-19 by Wolfgang Fengler, Marie-Francoise Nelly, Indermit Gill, Benedicte Baduel, and Facundo Cuevas at Brookings.