How the world rates South Africa

The world remains in the grips of the economic crisis despite signs of a tentative recovery. The global economy still faces a number of significant challenges that could hamper a genuine upturn, especially in the most advanced economies.

South Africa has held steady in the face of such global economic uncertainty, and is meeting its economic challenges head on. International analysts generally believe that some African countries, including South Africa, are well placed to weather the global storm. South Africa has a large economy and is widely recognised as having solid fundamentals and sound and effective financial systems.

What follows is a round-up of major international surveys, with a special focus on South Africa’s performance.


Global Competitiveness Index

Source: World Economic Forum
Latest publication date: September 2013
South Africa’s ranking: 53 out of 148 countries

South Africa was ranked as the 53rd most competitive country out of 148 surveyed in the 2013/14 World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, making it the second highest ranked country in Africa after Mauritius (45th).

It took over Brazil to take second place among the BRICS’ economies, with China at 29 and Brazil dropping to 56th place (from 48).

Conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in partnership with leading academics and a global network of research institutes, the index calculates its rankings from publicly available data and a poll of business leaders in 148 economies. The main goal of the report is to evaluate countries’ economic environment and their ability to achieve sustained levels of prosperity and growth.

According to the report, South Africa does well on measures of the quality of its institutions (41st), including intellectual property protection (18th), property rights (20th), and in the efficiency of the legal framework in challenging and settling disputes (13th and 12th, respectively).

The high accountability of its private institutions (2nd) further supports the institutional framework.

South Africa’s financial market development “remains impressive” at 3rd place, the report says. The country also has an efficient market for goods and services (28th), and it does “reasonably well” in more complex areas such as business sophistication (35th) and innovation (39th).

However, the report notes that South Africa’s strong ties to advanced economies, notably the euro area, make it more vulnerable to their economic slowdown and likely have contributed to the deterioration of fiscal indicators: its performance in the macroeconomic environment has dropped sharply (from 69th to 95th).


Africa Competitiveness report

Source: World Economic Forum
Latest publication date: May 2013
South Africa’s ranking: 2 out of 38 African countries

South Africa is rated first overall in terms of economic competitiveness out of 38 African countries, according to the Africa Competitiveness Report, which reviews the degree of competitiveness of Africa’s economies.

Rated as being on a par with innovative countries such as India and Brazil, South Africa is credited as having high-quality scientific research institutions, strong investment in research and development, and a significant level of collaboration between business and universities in research.

South Africa is rated as the second most innovative African country, firmly between with Tunisia in top spot and Senegal.

Based on data collected by the Global Competitiveness Survey, the African Competitiveness Report is a biannual report compiled by economic and financial specialists from the WEF, the World Bank and the Africa Development Bank. Thirty- eight African countries were assessed and ranked.

The report notes that while African economies have made important strides in improving their economies in recent years, closer regional integration is a crucial driver for enhancing competitiveness and for ensuring that the continent delivers on its massive growth promise.

The competitiveness report assesses countries on 12 pillars ranging from institutions to innovation. South Africa leads the continent in financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation.

But South Africa’s poor education performance, in combination with its labour market efficiency performance, points to a country which is not fully realising its “human resource potential”, the report suggests.


Doing Business report

Source: World Bank and International Finance Corporation
Latest publication date: September 2012
South Africa’s ranking: 39 out of 185 countries

South Africa ranks 39th in the World Bank and International Finance Corporation’s “Doing Business 2013: Smarter Regulations for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises”, an annual survey of the time, cost and hassle involving in doing business in 185 economies around the world.

In the year under review, South Africa was a strong performer when it comes to getting credit (1st), protecting investors (10th) and payment of taxes (32nd).

It was ranked at an impressive 39 for dealing with construction permits, and starting a business in South Africa is also easier (53rd).

While noting recent reforms, one of the country’s major weaknesses remains trading across borders (115th). Getting electricity was also weak, at 150.

The Doing Business survey analyses regulations that apply to an economy’s businesses during their life cycles, including start-up and operations, trading across borders, paying taxes, and closing a business. It does not, however, measure variables such as security, macroeconomic stability, corruption, skill level, or the strength of financial systems.


Emerging Markets Opportunity Index

Source: Grant Thornton SA
Latest publication date: February 2013
South Africa’s ranking: 14 out of 26 countries

South Africa has been ranked as the leading emerging economy in Africa and the only country on the continent to be ranked in the top 15 worldwide, according to the Emerging Markets Opportunity Index based on research by international advisory firm Grant Thornton.

The country also ranked ahead of Nigeria as a potential investment destination, coming in at 14 on the index with Nigeria at 17.

The index analyses a variety of indicators from Grant Thornton’s International Business Report, the International Monetary Fund and United Nations Human Development Report.

Indicators include economic size, population, growth prospects and levels of development to rate the countries potential to attract business investment.

Overall, South Africa was ranked 14th out of 26 emerging economies, with China, India and Russia claiming the top three spots.


Economic freedom

Source: The Heritage Foundation
Latest publication date: January 2013
South Africa’s ranking: 74 out of 177 countries

South Africa’s economy is regarded as “moderately free”, being graded as the 74th freest economy of 177 countries. It is ranked sixth out of 46 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The index, published by The Wall Street Journal and US think tank the Heritage Foundation, uses 10 benchmarks to measure the economic success of 179 countries, including business freedom, trade freedom, fiscal freedom, government size, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption, and labour freedom.

South Africa’s economic freedom score is 61.8. and its overall score is slightly higher than the world average of 59.6, and a regional average of 53.7.


Africa Attractiveness Survey

Source: Ernst & Young
Latest publication date: 2013
South Africa’s ranking: 47 out of 66 countries

South Africa ranks 47th out of 66 countries measured in the 2011 IT industry competitiveness index, with a score of 35 out of a possible 100.

The survey ranks the information technology (IT) industry environments of 66

IT industry competitiveness index

Source: Economist Intelligence Unit
Latest publication date: 2011
South Africa’s ranking: 47 out of 66 countries

South Africa ranks 47th out of 66 countries measured in the 2011 IT industry competitiveness index, with a score of 35 out of a possible 100.

The survey ranks the information technology (IT) industry environments of 66 countries on the extent to which they enable a competitive IT sector. The survey is compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the business information arm of The Economist Group, publisher of The Economist.

Titled “Resilience Among Turmoil: Benchmarking IT Industry Competitiveness”, the report notes that the IT sector has ridden out the crisis reasonably well, despite reduced technology spending. It highlights the concern that “protectionist instincts are on the rise in many governments’ technology sector policies”.

South Africa’s shift from 37 in 2008 to 43 in 2009 can be contributed to changes in the country’s performance as well as to improvements in the sources of data used to measure some indicators, the report says.

According to the study, South Africa performs best in the areas associated with the legal environment, scoring 64.5 out of a possible 100. The country also fares relatively well for its business environment (57.5), support for IT industry development, with a score of 55.2.

However, South Africa’s IT infrastructure, with a low score of 17.5, is a key area in need of improvement, primarily through the provision of high-quality networks and greater liberalisation of telecommunications.


Corruption Perceptions Index

Source: Transparency International
Latest publication date: November 2012
South Africa’s ranking: 69 out of 176 countries

South Africa is ranked 69th out of 176 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2012.

The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) measures the perceived level of public-sector corruption in 176 countries and territories. The CPI is a “survey of surveys”, based on expert and business surveys. Countries are ranked on a scale of zero (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived as having low levels of corruption).

Although South Africa scored 43, slipping to position 69, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela urged in 2012 that “public accountability was critical for good governance and effective combating of corruption”.

Botswana is the top-ranked African state at 37, followed by Cape Verde (39), Mauritius (42), and Rwanda (53).

Denmark, Sweden and New Zealand tied in top spot, each with scores of 90. Fragile, unstable states linger at the bottom of the rankings: Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia, all scoring 8.


Press freedom

Source: Reporters Without Borders
Latest publication date: January 2013
South Africa’s ranking: 52 out of 179 countries

South Africa dropped out of the top 50 in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2013. While freedom of information is entrenched in the country’s Constitution, its ranking has negatively been affected by perceived threats to investigative journalism by the Protection of State Information Bill.

The young African democracy of Ghana moved up impressively to 30, while Mali dropped a dramatic 74 places after a military coup left the country in turmoil.

The annual world press freedom index of 179 countries is compiled from questionnaires completed by hundreds of journalists and media experts around the world. Press freedom is seen as an important tool to inform, expose corruption and abuse of power in governments and to give a voice to minorities and groups facing neglect or discrimination.

Finland, Netherlands, Norway are in the three top spots. In last place, at 179th, is Eritrea, where no independent media is tolerated and as many as 30 journalists are in prison.


Global Gender Gap Index

Source: World Economic Forum
Latest publication date: 2012
South Africa’s ranking: 16 out of 135 countries

Comfortably within the top 20 of the Global Gender Gap Index, South Africa maintains the top spot in the region on political empowerment, holding the seventh position on this subindex and the fourth on the women in parliament indicator.

The index, released by the World Economic Forum, ranks 135 countries according to how much they have reduced gender disparities based on economic participation, education, health and political empowerment, while attempting to strip out the effects of a country’s overall wealth.

The Global Gender Gap Reports aim to quantify the size of gender-based disparities, tracking their progress over time.

South Africa is the second-highest ranking African country, after Lesotho at 14. the only other African country in the top 20, recognised as having no gap in education and health. Mozambique (23), Burundi (24) and Uganda (28) complete Africa’s top five.

Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Ireland make up the global top five, while Chad, Pakistan and Yemen take the three bottom spots.


Expat experience

Source: HSBC Bank International
Latest publication date: November 2012
South Africa’s ranking: 6th best out of 26 countries

South Africa is one of the best countries in the world to live in, according to a global survey of more than 5 100 expatriates.

Commissioned by HSBC Bank International, the Expat Explorer survey explores the experiences and perceptions of expats while they work abroad. South Africa was rated as the ninth best country out of 30 to live in, falling in between Germany and Australia.

Expats rated their current locations according to day-to-day criteria, including accommodation, food, social life, healthcare, working hours and family life.

South Africa was rated among the top nations in terms of the ease with which expats integrated into local society, which included lifestyle factors such as making friends with locals, setting up bank accounts, learning the language, and arranging healthcare.

In addition to making the top 10 overall, South Africa scored highly in the categories of organising schools (2nd), work-life balance (3rd) and finding somewhere to live (3rd).


Cost of living

Source: Mercer
Latest publication date: June 2012
South Africa’s ranking: Johannesburg rated 154 and Cape Town 179 out of 214 cities

Johannesburg has been rated as one of the most affordable city in the world for foreigners in the Worldwide Cost of Living survey, regarded as the world’s most comprehensive study of this type.

Out of 214 cities on five continents, Johannesburg was found to be almost three times cheaper than the most expensive city, Tokyo.

Mercer’s survey measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

The weakening of South Africa’s currency, the rand, against the dollar is said to be responsible for Johannesburg and Cape Town’s position.

The highest ranked – or most expensive – city in the survey is Luanda, Angola, ahead of Moscow and Tokyo. N’Djamena in Chad was rated the fourth most expensive city. Quite a few African cities feature in the top third of the rankings, pushed there because of the high cost of good, secure accommodation on those cities.


Dream destination

Source: WAYN
Latest publication date: May 2013
South Africa’s ranking: 1 out of 7

South Africa was named as the top dream destination in the world by members of the world’s largest travel and lifestyle social network, Where Are You Now (or WAYN.com).

The country beat Brazil, India, Dubai, Fiji, Turkey and Indonesia with 15 300 votes from members around the world. A total 78 000 votes were counted for all seven of the destinations. The nominated countries and cities were selected through market research and tracking user engagement on WAYN.

WAYN co-founder Jeremy Touz said South Africa’s strongest following came from Asia, in particular India. “Out of the 408 000 fans of South Africa on WAYN, there are now over 108 000 fans from India alone.”

SAinfo reporter

Reviewed: 5 September 2013

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