SA climbs 7 places in Global Competitiveness Report

Written by Steuart Pennington

In the most recent World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, which compares the competitiveness of 140 countries (there are 230 countries globally, but only 140 have enough detail to compile a report), the following is stated:

“South Africa climbs seven places to reach 49th, reversing its four-year downward trend thanks largely to increased uptake of ICTs—especially higher Internet bandwidth—and improvements in innovation (up by five places to 38th), which establish the economy as the region’s most innovative. South Africa also hosts the continent’s most efficient financial market (12th) and benefits from a sound goods market (38th), which is driven by strong domestic competition (28th) and an efficient transport infrastructure (29th). It further benefits from strong institutions (38th), particularly property rights (24th) and a robust and independent legal framework. Reducing corruption (76th) and the burden of government regulation (117th) and improving the security situation (102nd) would further improve institutions. The country also needs to address its inefficient electricity supply (116th) and inflexible labour market (107th). Even more worrisome are health (128th) and the quality of education (120th), where higher secondary enrolment rates will not be enough to create the skills needed for a competitive economy.”

SA vs the Advanced World and SA vs Africa

Below is a graph I have compiled which considers the 12 ‘pillars’ od competitiveness that are examined in the report. I compare advanced economies (blue line) with the SA profile (redline) with the Sub-Saharan profile (green line -approximately 30 Sub-Saharan countries are included in the report). The results speak for themselves, we are comparable on many of the ‘pillars’ but fall badly on the three ‘pillars’ of:

  • Infrastructure
  • Health
  • Education

It goes without saying that the building blocks of improved competitiveness in developing countries relate to these three. Witness South Korea, Malaysia etc.


The Devil is in the Detail

Below is a table of where we do best and where we do worst. When compared with our performance in 2009 when we were ranked 45th/134 countries you can see the same pattern, major slippage in the areas of labour relations, health, education and increasingly state capacity (the area where our competitiveness has fallen most dramatically).



The table below considers our most dramatic improvements and our most dramatic deteriorating competitiveness. Guess what? State capacity presents a gloomy picture.


Quiz: How well do you know your country?

I spend my life trying to understand this country and all its paradoxes and untold stories, I also spend an inordinate amount of time trying to deal with Conventional Wisdom Madness. Most respondents to the questions below get most of them wrong.

Have a bash at answering them, send me your answers if you like, bet you won’t do better that 6/10!