2017-2018 WEF Global Competitiveness Index results – a wake-up call to South Africa

Johannesburg, Wednesday 27 September 2017 – Brand South Africa today noted with concern South Africa’s declined performance in the 2017-2018 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index (WEF GCI). South Africa now ranks 61 out of 137 economies assessed in the annual survey.

South African flag at WEF Davos
The South African flag flies at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on 17 January 2017. (Image: World Economic Forum)

This is a regression of 14 positions from the 2016-2017 WEF GCI results. Following on two years where the country made strong progress in the global competitiveness rankings, this year’s results is a wake-up call to the nation.

Speaking about the results, Brand South Africa’s CEO Dr Kingsley Makhubela said according to this WEF report, ‘South Africa’s declined competitiveness profile can be attributed to low GDP growth forecasts at just 1.0 percent in 2017 and 1.2 percent in 2018 – hit by persistently low international demand for its commodities’.

“It is also concerning that the financial sector has been affected by uncertainty as can be seen in the dramatic drop in performance in this indicator, while historically low levels of business confidence have now clearly impacted on the competitiveness profile of the Nation Brand. We note decreasing competitiveness in Institutions, Macro-economic environment, Goods and market efficiency, and Financial market development. Meaning that both government and the private sector should take heed of the deteriorating competitiveness indicators.”

“While we note the over-all drop in competitiveness of the South African economy, the country improved on Labour market efficiency by four positions (93/137), Infrastructure improved with three positions (61/137), and Health & Primary education with two positions (121/137).

A WEF finding note that South Africa’s infrastructure is the best developed in the region. (Image: SA Tourism)

“This means that all is not lost, however, as a nation there are several lessons to take from the WEF report indicators. As an open and transparent democratic system, leaders and public officials have to work much harder on maintaining high ethical standards in their conduct especially as it pertains to the fight against corruption and wastefulness in the public sector. Having said that, the private sector – especially in the financial sector, should pay attention to the drop in performance in the sector’s competitiveness,” said Dr Makhubela.

It is important to note that the executive opinion survey sample had drastically increased between 2016 and 2017 from 44 to 170 respectively. This means that a completely new sample informed the opinion survey conducted for the 2017 index. WEF notes that the year-on-year change in the sample constitutes a structural break in how the results are reflected. Additionally, unlike previous years, the South African Opinion Survey was solely conducted online.

“Brand South Africa will share with stakeholders a much more detailed analysis of the findings and will be working with stakeholders to establish focused efforts and implement measures that address the challenges documented in the WEF report,” concluded Dr Makhubela.