South Africa

South Africans kissing work from home goodbye 

Over three-quarters of South African office workers now commute to the office at least three days a week, and people are driving more than ever before. 

This was revealed in Discovery Bank’s SpendTrend24 report, compiled in collaboration with Visa. 

The report compiled data from Discovery Bank’s clients in South Africa and data from over 60 million Visa cards worldwide and over 3 billion transactions. 

Discovery Bank CEO Hylton Kallner told a media briefing that the research aimed to understand where and how South Africans spend their money. 

Despite a challenging macroeconomic environment, South Africans proved resilient in 2023 compared to their global peers, with spending growing slightly. 

Around two-thirds of South Africans’ spending is on groceries, fuel, retail, and travel. Discovery did a deep dive into these areas to determine how people spend in them. 

With regard to fuel spending, Discovery Insure data reveals that clients are travelling more post-pandemic than ever before. 

In 2023, they drove more than in 2022, but with a twist — despite making 10% fewer trips, they’re covering 40% more distance on average each month. 

The report attributed this to lifestyle changes, particularly the increased return-to-office movement in South Africa last year.

Vitality Drive data shows that over 75% of clients who work from offices are now commuting at least three days a week.

On average, in 2023, a typical Discovery Insure client took 117 trips a month, drove nearly 1,700 km a month, and spent 36 hours in their car per month. 

The graph below shows the average number of trips, kilometres travelled, and average trip length per client. 

This means South Africans are driving more despite rising fuel prices, which were 1.5% higher in 2023 than in 2022. 

Discovery noticed some interesting trends concerning fuel spending in 2023, with elderly people spending the most on fuel of any age group. 

In 2022, due to more frequent and larger fuel price increases, clients tended to refuel on Tuesdays to ease the impact of price hikes on Wednesdays. 

However, in 2023, clients were more inclined to refuel based on their consumption needs, often choosing Fridays as the end of the work week and the start of the weekend.  

Petrol prices in South Africa will be higher for longer as tensions in the Middle East and lacklustre oil production threaten to keep prices for fuel high, presenting significant risks to local inflation. 

This is feedback from FNB investment analyst Jalpa Bhoolia and senior economist Koketso Mano, who said South Africans will have to wait for any substantial reductions in the price of petrol.

Bhoolia and Mano said South Africans will be living with elevated fuel prices for the foreseeable future. 

They said that oil producers will continue limiting their output in a bid to keep prices high while global demand falters. 

As the northern hemisphere comes out of winter, demand for oil from Europe and the US is expected to pick up, keeping prices high throughout the middle of the year. 

Furthermore, the risk of further escalated tensions in the Middle East would result in even higher oil prices and logistical costs. 

This is while the rand continues to experience near-term pressure from hawkish rhetoric by advanced market central banks such as the Federal Reserve. 

All of this, combined, results in higher fuel prices, Bhoolia and Mano said. 

Because of the higher fuel prices, South Africans will experience higher public transport costs and increased prices on products transported by road.


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