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SA reclaims top spot as Africa's largest economy

South Africa faces the risk of going into recession after the economy contracted in the first quarter of 2016.

South African money. Picture: Gadeeja Abbas/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's economy regained the position as Africa's largest in dollar terms more than two years after losing it to Nigeria as the value of the nations' currencies moved in opposite directions.

Based on gross domestic product, the size of South Africa's economy is $301 billion at the rand's current exchange rate, while Nigeria's GDP is $296 billion.

The South African currency gained more than 16 percent against the dollar since the start of 2016, and Nigeria's naira lost more than a third of its value after the central bank removed a currency peg in June.

The Nigerian economy shrank by 0.4% in the three months through March from a year earlier amid low oil prices and output and shortage of foreign currency.

However, both countries face the risk of a recession after contracting in the first quarter of the year.

Meanwhile, the rand touched a new 10-month high against the dollar early on Wednesday as the greenback sank after weak US productivity data again pushed back expectations of a Federal Reserve rate hike.

Local stocks fell, out of step with a global equities rally, as the currency rally took its toll on shares in companies that make most of their money in foreign earnings.