(Bloomberg) -- South African business sentiment declined to an almost three-year low as persistent power cuts, rising interest rates and cost pressures weighed on profitability.   

A quarterly business confidence index compiled by FirstRand Ltd.’s Rand Merchant Bank unit and Stellenbosch University’s Bureau for Economic Research fell to 27 in the three months through June from 36 in the prior quarter. That’s the lowest level since the third quarter of 2020, when executives were concerned about the fragile nature of South Africa’s recovery from the damage wrought by Covid-19 lockdowns.

The release of the data comes a day after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet met with business leaders to discuss ways to revive the struggling economy. Executives have expressed frustration at a lack of policy implementation and government ineptitude since Ramaphosa took office in early 2018. 

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The economy has been hit by record daily power cuts, rampant crime, disintegrating infrastructure and foreign policy missteps which has led to an investor exodus. Foreign buyers have been net sellers of the nation’s stocks and the rand has plunged 11%. 

The government and business leaders agreed at the meeting on Tuesday to set up workstreams to deal with the energy crisis, transport and logistics constraints and crime and corruption, according to a statement issued by the Presidency and lobby groups Business for South Africa and Business Unity South Africa.

Chief executive officers of the country’s largest companies committed to contribute considerable skills and resources and work through relevant partnership structures to address key priorities, the statement said.

Those who will lead business’s participation in the workstreams include Sasol Ltd.’s CEO Fleetwood Grobler, Remgro Ltd. CEO Jannie Durand, Sibanye Stillwater Ltd. CEO Neal Froneman, Toyota South Africa Motors CEO Andrew Kirby and Sanlam Ltd. CEO Paul Hanratty, the statement said. Other CEOs will be added over time.

“This initiative will make a real and marked difference in rebuilding our economy and setting it on a path of sustained inclusive growth,” Ramaphosa said. “It is driven by a shared determination to overcome the severe challenges we currently face and to mobilize the country’s substantial capabilities towards the achievement of that goal.”

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