South Africa Country Performance, Nation Brand Strength and Reputation

South Africa: how well does Africa’s southernmost country perform in international studies on economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability? Does the reputation of South Africa speak of progress in reducing poverty, overcoming its reputation as one of the world’s most unequal countries? How well does its nation brand perform in comparison to other countries in the region? Answers in this summary of global reports, studies and rankings on country performance, brand strength and reputation.

Read about:

  • South Africa’s business environment;
  • The digital performance of South Africa;
  • South Africa in indices of environmental and social sustainability;
  • Life quality and happiness in South Africa;
  • South Africa’s contribution to global well-being and peace;
  • Reputation and performance of South Africa as nation brand.

Doing business in South Africa

How attractive is South Africa for starting a new business?

South Africa’s ranking as a place for doing business in the global context is not too strong –it positions 82nd in this year’s Ease of Doing Business study. Nevertheless, it holds a strong 5th position in the Sub-Saharan Africa region.

According to this index, the most difficult aspects of doing business in South Africa are trading across borders (147th) and starting a new business (136th). However, the interests of minority investors are rather well assured (24th).

Compared to results in 2008, South Africa’s performance has deteriorated a fair deal, as its overall ranking was 35th a decade ago.

The negative tendency of South Africa’s performance in terms of economic competitiveness is also visible in the 2017-18 Global Competitiveness Index, where it currently ranks 61st out of the 137 countries included in the study. A decade ago it was positioned 45th.

In this index, South Africa’s poorest performing pillar is health and primary education (121st). It performs best in the categories of market size (30th) and business sophistication (37th).

In terms of transparency, South Africa ranks 71st  in the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index, sharing the score with Bulgaria and Vanuatu. Among Sub-Saharan countries, South-Africa ranks 9th, with Botswana being the regional leader.


Talent in South Africa

What are the conditions for talent attraction and retainment in South Africa?

South Africa is one of the regional leaders in terms of talent, ranking 3rd in the Sub-Saharan area in the 2018 Talent Competitiveness Index. South Africa’s position in the global ranking is 63rd.

The country scores best in talent growth (38th) and talent attraction (40th)  – and lowest in retaining talent (97th).


South Africa’s digital performance

How strong is digital demand for South Africa?

South Africa seems to have a strong digital demand, according to Bloom Consulting’s latest Digital Country Index (2017) where it ranks 29th. Despite being the regional leader, this year its ranking is five positions lower than in the previous, 2015 study.

In 2017, South Africa did best in the category of investment (10th), while talent (28th), exports (41st), prominence (45th) and tourism (46th) all scored significantly lower in terms of search volume.


South Africa’s environmental sustainability

Is South Africa an example of environmental sustainability?

The 2018 Environmental Performance Index ranks South Africa 142nd, which is much lower than in 2016 when it positioned 81st.

South Africa’s environmental performance in WEF’s  Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index is not much better. In 2017, its position in the category of environmental sustainability was 117th.

Within this category, the biggest concern of South Africa is the rapid change of its forest cover (121st), as well as the number of threatened species (102nd). However, the sustainability of the development of its travel and tourism industry receives a much more positive evaluation, ranking 28th.


Life quality in South Africa

Which are the most influential aspects of life quality in South Africa?

While there is a strong sense of community among South Africans and a high voter turnout that shows good levels of civic participation, South Africans are generally less satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, according to the 2017 Better Life Index. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, South Africans give it a 4.8 grade on average, much lower than the OECD average of 6.5.

The OECD brings out that South Africa has made great progress since 1994 by reducing absolute poverty and improving access to education, housing, water and electricity. As a result, well-being has increased substantially. Nevertheless, South Africa performs well in only a few measures of well-being relative to the other 38 countries studied in the 2017 index.

South Africa ranks below average in dimensions such as income and wealth, housing, or health status. The country’s average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is almost three times lower than the OECD average of USD 30 563 a year. Its score is also below the average in education and skills, civic engagement and environmental quality.

Contrary to many countries portrayed in our country observatory, South Africa is the first country where levels of happiness prove to be higher among the foreign-born than those born in South Africa. This might be the result of high levels of inequality among incomers and, above all, black South Africans, whose income levels continue to be significantly lower.

In the 2018 World Happiness Report, the country ranks 80th for the sense of happiness among the foreign-born and 105th among those born in the country.

The 2017 Happy Planet Index, which is slightly more focused on the environmental factors of well-being, has a rather negative prospect of South Africa’s contribution to a happier planet. This year, South Africa is among the bottom 10 of this index, ranking 128th among the 140 countries surveyed for the study. Its score is especially low in life expectancy (130th) and inequality (106th). Its best-performing pillar – wellbeing— puts South Africa on 80th position.


South Africa as a good country

How does South Africa score in studies that focus on a country’s contribution to global well-being and peace?

South Africa does rather well in the latest Good Country index, where it ranks 25th for its contribution to global well-being. It is an important contributor to international peace and security, ranking 2nd in this dimension. The country also stands out for its role in improving world order and science and technology (both ranking 25th). Nevertheless, poor performance in the categories of planet and climate (150th) and prosperity and equality(114th) leave the country at the bottom end of the ranking.

Falling one position in this year’s study, South Africa ranks 125th in the 2018 Global Peace Index. The study brings out that South Africa was one of the three countries with the largest increases in internal security spending, together with China and Russia. This follows the global trend of increasing economic impact of violence, which went up two per cent during 2017.

With 24% of its GDP spent on managing violence, South Africa ranks as the 15th biggest spender on direct and indirect costs of violence.


South Africa’s nation brand and reputation

How well does South Africa perform in studies that analyse nation brand value and international reputation?

While the external reputation of South Africa is strong, the country proves to be very self-critical, leading to a low self-image, as the Reputation Institute’s report on South Africa shows.

South Africa ranks 43rd in the 2017 Nation Brands Index by Brand Finance. Despite a 13% growth in its nation brand value, South Africa has lost two positions in this index, compared to the previous edition. However, this still makes South Africa the highest-ranking African country, with Nigeria coming next at position 47.

South Africa is also the continental leader of the 2017 Country RepTrak, where its global rank is 36th. Just like the value of its nation brand, the reputation of South Africa also improved over the last year, going up by 2,6%.

The index shows that South Africans have a very low internal reputation, meaning the self-image of the country is weak. This leads to a strong difference between the external and internal image, making South Africa the 2nd most self-critical country only after Brazil.


Analysis by Maria Lindmäe. Last updated August 2018.


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