South Africa’s global reputation ‘steady’

18 November 2013

South Africa’s global reputation has held steady in this year’s Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index, an annual survey of 50 countries regarded as playing important roles in international relations, trade and flow of business, and cultural and tourism activities.

South Africa maintained its 36th position in the latest survey, which was released on Thursday with Botswana entering the rankings for the first time at 48, just ahead of Nigeria and Iran.

For the survey, opinions from nearly 20 500 people in 20 core panel countries – one of which is South Africa – are polled online. The respondents rate 50 countries on questions in six categories: exports, governance, culture, people, tourism and immigration/investment.

The index measures the power and appeal of each country’s “brand image” by examining its competence in these categories.

The 2013 study found that South Africa was outperforming its counterparts in Africa and the Middle East in terms of reputation.

Good news

“Coming in the wake of the South Africa’s inaugural Competitiveness Forum, the 2013 Nation Brands Index results are very good news for South Africa,” Miller Motola, chief executive of Brand South Africa, said in a statement on Friday.

“The National Development Plan is a strong plan, which, if implemented, will see us make strong gains in the important categories of governance and immigration and investment. We are already on track to achieve those goals, as set out in Vision 2030,” Matola said.

While South Africa’s rankings have remained unchanged in exports (37), governance (40), tourism (34) and immigration/investment (38), its improvement in the culture pillar to 27 was “fitting”, Matola said, “since we are proud of our history and diversity and this is one of our greatest strengths”.

Although South Africa showed a slight decline in the “people” pillar to 34, this trend was evidenced across most of the 50 polled nations.

South Africa’s stable position as a nation brand is important because the way a country is perceived can make a significant difference to the success of its business, trade and tourism efforts, as well as its diplomatic and cultural relations with other nations.

Top achievers

The average scores attained by the study’s top 10 remains “virtually identical” to what they were in 2008, the report says. The US retains its top spot as the nation with the best overall reputation for the fourth year in a row.

Voted as the most attractive country for immigration and investment for the fourth year running, the US’s position may be under threat as its score has shown one of the biggest falls of any nation since last year, the study’s founder, Simon Anholt, said in a statement.

The survey’s top 10 for 2013 are:

  1. The United States
  2. Germany
  3. The UK
  4. France
  5. Canada
  6. Japan
  7. Italy
  8. Switzerland
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden

Most countries displayed a “remarkable stability”, the report says. The notable exception is Spain, which has struggled to emerge from its debt crisis.

BRICS block

Brazil (20) is the only country in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping to appear in the index’s “second tier”, rising incrementally between 2008 and 2011, but cooling slightly in the post-Lula da Silva era.

Russia’s reputation is described as “noticeably volatile”, due in large part to the country’s governance positions. It is ranked 22nd.

China’s ranking at 23 was affected by “noticeable losses on their investment appeal”, reflecting a trend across the world, Anholt said.

India at 31 has experienced “considerable downward movements” between the last two readings, the report notes.

South African success

South Africa is the “strongest performer” of the nine countries selected to represent the Middle East and Africa.

Nation Brands Index – Middle East and Africa:

  1. South Africa: 36
  2. Egypt: 41
  3. United Arab Emirates: 40
  4. Saudi Arabia: 45
  5. Qatar: 46
  6. Kenya: 47
  7. Botswana: 48
  8. Nigeria: 49
  9. Iran: 50

South Africans provided high rankings in the people, tourism and culture categories, but were more critical about areas such as governance and immigration/investment.

The latter refers to a country’s ability to attract talent and capital, its economic prosperity, equal opportunity, and the perception that it is a place with a high quality of life. The country’s economic and business conditions are also measured.

Bridging the gap

The report notes that there remains a large gap between the top 20 nations (the “haves”) and the bottom 30 (the “have-nots”) when it comes to investment/immigration, the pillar that focuses on growth potential.

“Developed nations still command the respect of the world when it comes to education quality, social equality, strong businesses and the overall quality of life,” the report says.

The lower-ranked nations also lag when it comes to science contribution, creativity and quality products, scoring, on average, 15 points below the leading nations of the top 20. “Their governments, too, fall a distance behind the leading nations, scoring an average of over 14 points below,” the report notes.

South Africa weakest score is in the area of governance, although it outdoes its BRICS partners India and China in this category.

Tourism, culture, people

The cultural reputation of a nation is considered to be among the most volatile of all indices, but South Africa’s standing in the culture category remains its strongest asset – the country is ranked 27th, up from 28 last year.

South Africa slipped slightly to 34th in the people category, which measures people’s friendliness by whether respondents would feel welcome when visiting the country.

South Africa’s rank of 34 for tourism is the same as the past two years.

Selecting the countries

The list of 50 nations is based on their political and economic importance in global geopolitics and the flow of trade, businesses, people and tourism activities. Regional representation and the diversity of political and economic systems are also taken into consideration.

SAinfo reporter and GfK.com