During the past 12 months, many of Imperial's markets of operation faced challenging trading conditions due to the extended impact of COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions as infection rates continued to rise again in H2 F2021. A third wave of COVID-19 infections has gathered momentum on the African continent, particularly in countries where vaccination rates are currently very low. In the absence of stimulus by governments, these effects are expected to continue to hamper the economic recovery and growth in these markets.
Most European countries have eased lockdown measures due to decreasing numbers of infected people. In Germany, however, certain lockdown restrictions remain in place but are gradually easing. The automotive sector is being negatively impacted by the global shortage of semi-conductors. The heightened impact of Brexit has resulted in slower imports into and exports from the United Kingdom (UK) and a shortage of drivers in the UK. More clarity is expected when the new Brexit regulations have been fully implemented.
The imbalance in supply chains due to lack of availability of shipping containers in certain key markets is resulting in higher supply chain costs due to higher freight rates that are negatively impacting volumes in our businesses in these markets.
Forecasts indicate that most economies in key African markets in which we operate contracted in 2020, with low to modest growth expected in calendar 2021. Further, some of our markets of operation experienced levels of social unrest which negatively impacted operations.
We will experience overall volatile trading conditions across the markets in which we operate until some level of normalisation is reached around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Note: The half year 1 numbers presented in the tables that follow this section have been restated to align to the new segmentation and therefore do not agree to the published half year 1 numbers.