SA Fast Facts

S.A. FAST FACTS – 2019 Update

by Steuart Pennington

Every year we update S.A Fast Facts in the following categories:


Our major source of information is the Global Competitiveness Report 2019/2020, the Economist and

In 2019 South Africa ranks as the 60th MOST COMPETITIVE out of 138 countries, an improvement of 7 places over 2018  where we were placed 67th out of 144 countries. Source: WEF Global Competitiveness Report.

NOTE: There are 235 countries globally, but only 138 have sufficient information for data to be collected and compiled.

The Global Competitiveness report compares 12 ‘pillars’ of competitiveness using 120 measures (see Section 14)

We try an update these figures every year, fortunately the Global Competitiveness Report and the Economist Pocket World in Figures are published annually, daily.

Many of our other sources are irregular, some only every five years.

We invite you our readers to contribute, either to correct the figures we have, or to add others that we don’t have!

1. Political

  • South Africa is the 24th largest country geographically, has the 25th largest population, the 33rd largest economy by GDP, the 30th largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) and ranks 19th in terms of foreign debt (Economist Pocket World 2020 – comparing 190 countries).
  • Black Sash: In South Africa in 1955, a group of six women mobilised thousands in protest of human rights violations under the apartheid regime. The group became known as Black Sash, after the black sash that they wore symbolically to “mourn the death of the Constitution”. In the 1990s the group helped to develop South Africa’s new Constitution.
  • Military: Nuclear arsenals: There are 9 countries which are widely understood to have a stockpile of deployable nuclear weapons, they are: the USA, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The USA and Russia have comparable stockpiles, owning between them over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.
  • Election Watch: The ANC has 980 000 members in good standing. These are divided into 3 800 branches (branches with 100-249 members get one delegate to the National Elective Conference) However, in each branch, for every additional 250 members another delegate may be appointed. It is estimated that there will be 4731 delegates attending the NEC. The winning candidate needs to secure 2 800 delegate votes. (Source: Sunday Times Oct 29)
  • Women in parliament: 42% of parliamentarians in South Africa are women. Just 6 countries in the world have a higher proportion of female parliamentarians than South Africa, with Rwanda having the highest at 64%.
  • According to the Open Budget Index 2019, South Africa has the most transparent budget in the world (1st) behind New Zealand and Sweden.
  • South Africa is the only African country that is a member of the G20.
  • South Africa ranks 7th overall on the 2015 Ibrahim Index which measures the quality of African governance, Mauritius 1st out of 54 countries. Somalia is 54th

Economic Freedom


  • The 2019 Economic Freedom of the World report ranks SA at 102nd. There are 87 “free” countries, 59 ‘partially free’ and 49 ‘not free’
  • South Africa ranks as the 60th strongest state out of 178 countries in the Fund for Peace’s Failed State Index 2012. (61st in 2011) The index measures state vulnerability based on 12 social, economic, political and military indicators.
  • “Personal satisfaction” with the country’s democracy rose from 49% in 2008 to 60% in 2011, back to 48% in 2015 and then back to 60% in 2019, according to the continent wide Afrobarometer research group.
  • Affirmative legislation exists all over the world. In most countries it is designed to protect minorities from discrimination.

2. Economic

The global inflation rate is currently around 3.6%, according to the International Monetary Fund, which incidentally is exactly the same as for SA, announced recently by StatsSA

  • The Economist records the JSE the 19th largest Bourse globally at US$865b. NYSE # 1 at $20 679b; Japan 3rd at $5 297b; London SE 7th at $3 638b; Australia 16th at $1 236b
  • SA’s Services Output ranks 33rd at US$215 billion; USA 1st at $14,400b; China 2nd at $6,300b; Japan 3rd at $3,400b, UK 5th at $1,860b.
    SA Agricultural output ranked at 33rd at US$21 billion, China 1st at $969b; India 2nd at $414b; ; USA 3rd at $189b.
    SA Gold production ranked 7th largest at 137 tonnes; China 1st at 420; Australia 2nd at 292; Russia 3rd at 270; USA 4th at 236.
    SA Platinum production ranked 1st at 143 tonnes; Russia 2nd at 21; Zimbabwe 3rd at 14.Source:Economist
  • The Economist records Household debt as a % of net disposable income, in 2018 SA, at 72%, ranks 26th globally. Denmark 1st at 281%, Australia 4th at 216%, UK 11th at 148%, USA 18th at 108%.
    In respect of largest industrial output SA ranks 36th at US$90 billion, China 1st at $4950 b, USA 2nd at $3516 b, Qatar 34th at $95 b, Singapore 42nd at $75 b.
  • Shopping spree: According to a Black Friday Global survey, South Africa experiences a 2,571% surge in the number of transactions on Black Friday each year when compared to a regular day. Even though the average discount across SA online stores reached 61% in 2017, the average South African bargain hunter is only willing to pay R1,654 ($126) in total for his/her Black Friday shopping cart. That is $68 more than Nigerian consumers, and $50 more than Kenyans.
  • Domestic inflation: In South Africa, the highest inflation rate to date was recorded in January 1986, at 20.7%. That year the average inflation rate was 18.7%. South Africa’s average inflation during the global credit crunch in 2008, was 11.5%. In July 2018, the latest official monthly inflation rate was 5.1%.
  • On the move: According to Statistics South Africa’s latest mid-year population estimates report, South Africa is estimated to receive a net immigration of 1.02 million people between 2016 and 2021. The majority of international migrants are estimated to settle in Gauteng (48%), followed by the Western Cape (12%) and Limpopo (11%), while the least will settle in the Northern Cape (1%).
  • Growth spurts: Harvard’s Center for International Development (CID) predicts that the three fastest growing economies until 2026 will be India, Uganda, and Egypt, growing at 7.89%, 7.46%, and 6.63% respectively. In contrast, South Africa is projected to grow at 4.9% annually until 2026, despite current projections of less than 1% growth in 2018.
  • Daily grind: According to PAMS 2017, there are 14.5 million employed adults, with three in four working full-time and the remainder working part-time. The top occupations amongst employed men are tradesman (20%), manual worker such as brick layer or farm labourer (19%) and customer service (12%). The top occupations amongst employed women are manual worker such as brick layer or farm labourer (17%), manual worker such as domestic worker or nanny (17%) and customer service (14%).
  • Back to school: Dress code: A survey of three school uniform suppliers found that the cost of a generic school uniform (not school specific items) would cost between R300 and R863. For schools that require school specific items (branded items sold only at specific suppliers), a full uniform would cost approximately R1,600. If sportswear is required this will cost an additional R1,300 (excluding sports shoes)
  • Trade and Industry: Wine time: South Africa is the seventh largest wine producer in the world, producing 3.9% of the world’s wine. In 2016, South Africa produced 898.4 million litres of wine, of which two thirds was white wine and one third was red wine.
  • The Economist Pocket World in Figures (2020) ranks South Africa 22nd out of 190 countries in terms of Cinema Attendance with 20.9 million ‘visits’ per annum. India is # 1 with 1,950 million visits per annum followed by China with 1,700 and the USA with 1,300 million visits per annum. Iceland has the most ‘visits’ per person @ 4.3.
  • Elite:The Africa Wealth Report includes data on high net worth individuals (HNWIs), defined as individuals with net assets of US$1 million or more. In 2019, South Africa was home to the most HNWIs on the continent, at an estimated 40,400 individuals. This is followed by Egypt (around 18,100 HNWIs) and Nigeria (around 12,300 HNWIs).
  • Givers:According to the OECD, in 2015 the US contributed more than $30 billion in foreign aid, this was followed by Germany which contributed more than $20 billion and the UK which contributed just under $20 billion. However as a percentage of gross national income (GNI), Sweden was the largest foreign aid contributor (1.4% of GNI) followed by the UAE (1.1%) and Norway (1.05%).
  • In the Economist BIG MACIndex of 2020, a measure of the extent to which currencies are under-valued, SA ranks 25th with a 22.5% under evaluation against the US$
  • Ease of doing business: SA is currently ranked 82nd out of 190 countries. SA was ranked 72 among 189 countries in the 2016 World Bank’s Doing Business Report and 74 out of 190 countries in the 2017 report.
  • 21% of employed people in South Africa are members of a trade union. For the mining and quarrying industries, the percentage is 80%, the highest of all industries.
  • South African Tax Revenue has increased from R100 billion in 1994 to R1,4 trillion in 2018.
  • South Africa is ranked 19th in respect of foreign debt at 176 US $ Billion, China 1st at !710 US$ Billion
  • South Africa not ranked in the top 30 countries in terms of household debt as a percentage of disposable income. Denmark 1st at 281%, Australia 4th at 216%UK 11th at 148%.(Economist 2020)
  • South Africa’s debt to GDP ratio is 55% (USA 100%, Japan 200%, UK 90%). The World Bank recommends a ratio of 60%.
  • The South African stock market is ranked 3rd in terms of regulation in the 2019 Global Competitiveness Report.
  • SA ranks 32nd out of 165 countries in terms of the size of its US$ reserves, ahead of Australia, Sweden and Chile. The Euro Area ranks 1st, USA ranks 2nd, the UK 17th, (Economist 2020)
  • In a survey of 192 countries, South Africa’s unemployment as a percentage of economically active population ranked 27th.
  • SA ranks 27th in terms of number of cars produced and 36th in terms of number of cars sold. (Economist 2020).
  • SA ranks 36th in terms of industrial output and 33rd in terms of services output (Economist 2020).
  • South Africa ranks 37th out of 192 countries in the Economist’s “Biggest Exporters” Index.(2020).
  • South Africa ranks 60th in a comparison of tax as a % of GDP of 150 countries worldwide.
  • South Africa ranks in the top 20 countries for agricultural output.
  • The sum of investments in SA over the past 20 years has increased by an impressive 86%, but has tailed off dramatically over past three years. This figure allows for the eroding impact of inflation.

3. Business

  • MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet raised R7 333 827.20 during July to assist schools, charities, environmental and animal organisations. Hope you have a card!
  • Game changers: Tax-e: According to the SA National Taxi Council, there are more than 200,000 minibus taxis in South Africa≠ generating over R90 billion each year. The taxi industry in SA has started to adopt an e-ticket fare collection system that will enable commuters to load their FairPay cards via point of sale devices and kiosks at taxi ranks. Apart from being able to process card payments, the equipment installed in taxis also contains a GPS device, and can act as a WiFi hotspot, providing commuters with internet connectivity while they travel.
  • Out of office: Time out: Sri Lanka is recognised as having the most public holidays of any country in the world, with 25, followed by India with 21. In comparison, South Africa has 12 public holidays, and Mexico has the least with 7.
  • Media consumers: In the past week, 94% of South African adults (aged 15+) watched TV, 84% listened to the radio, half accessed the internet, and one third read a newspaper.

4. Tourism


  • So Many Visitors: The period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 saw 5.3 million passenger arrivals at Cape Town International Airport. Cape Town average occupancy rates were highest over the period November to February, and peaked at around 80% in November 2017 and February 2018. (
  • Spring time; Flower kingdom: The Cape floristic region, one of six floral kingdoms in the world, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004. The biodiversity hotspot has one of the highest concentrations of plant species in the world and is the only floral kingdom to be contained within a single country. It contains around 9,600 species, of which 70% do not grow anywhere else in the world.
    Jetsetters: According to the Department of Home Affairs, a total of 3,309,712 travellers (arrivals, departures and transits) passed through South African ports of entry during March 2017. One quarter of the travellers (24.7%) were South African residents and three quarters (75.3%) were foreign travellers.
  • The ten leading overseas countries visiting South Africa are the UK, USA, Germany, the Netherlands, France, China, Italy, Australia, India and Spain. Tourists from these ten countries comprised 75,2% of all tourists from overseas countries.
  • South Africa is ranked among the top 3 countries in the world (countries with more than 9 million tourists) in respect of tourism growth (growing at 3 times the global average) -World Tourism Council
  • SA ranks 24th in terms of visitors at 16.5 million, 10.5 million of which are tourists (France 83 million, UK 29 million, Switzerland 8.5 million, India 7.6 million, Australia 8 million). (Economist 2020)
  • Table Mountain was inaugurated as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012.
  • Cape Town International is the best airport in Africa, according to the World Airport Awards 2012. O R Tambo International was 2nd and King Shaka International came 3rd. They were ranked 26th, 28th and 30th respectively in the world (2019)
  • TripAdvisor has named Boulders Beach as one of its top 10 truly unique beaches in the world.

5. Sport

  • Location, location, location: Since 1930, the FIFA World Cup has been hosted in the European Zone 11 times, including the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The zone that has hosted the tournament second most often is the South American Zone, hosting the tournament 5 times. The African Zone has only hosted the tournament once, in South Africa. The 2022 FIFA World Cup is expected to be hosted in the Asian Zone which has only hosted the tournament once before, when Korea and Japan dual hosted in 2002.
  • Rugby: Fans: 7.7 million South African adults are interested in rugby (20% of adults). 1.4 million say they have attended a rugby game in the past 12 months, and 720,000 people participated in the sport in the past 12 months.
  • South Africa won the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, for the third time (tied with NZ) since the introduction of the RWC in 1987.
  • South Africa was the first African country to host the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010. It is only the second country in the world to have hosted the Cricket, Rugby Union and Soccer World Cups, after England.
  • South Africa is home to the world’s largest individually timed cycle race (the Cape Argus Cycle Race), the world’s largest open water swim (the Midmar Mile) and the world’s largest ultra-marathon (the Comrades Marathon)
  • 5 South Africans hold the world extreme swimming world record for swimming 2.5kms around Cape Horn.
  • Since the 1940’s, South African golfers have won more golf majors than any other nation, apart from the United States.
  • Cricket is the third most popular sport in South Africa, with over 7 million adults expressing an interest in it. Soccer is the clear winner with 19.5 million adults (over half the population) expressing an interest in it.
  • Since being readmitted to international cricket in 1991, South Africa have appeared in all 7 editions of the Cricket World Cup. South Africa have reached the semi-finals of the competition on 3 of those occasions, but have never made an appearance in the finals.

6. Education

  • ECD Centres in SA: There are approximately 28 500 registered Early Childhood Development Centres in South Africa caring for +/- 1 900 000 children, according to figures Released Pretoria. South Africa currently has 30 000 schools of which 23 000 are primary schools and 7000 secondary schools, including 1098 registered independent or privately owned schools. These schools have over 12 million learners, and some 386 600 teachers, approx. 580 000 learners write matric, 50% of the intake in Grade 1.
  • Literate: The General Household Survey tests the ability to read by asking respondents to indicate whether they have any difficulty reading a newspaper, book or magazine. 1.44 million South African adults (4%) say they are unable to read and a further 490,000 (1% of adults) say they ‘have a lot of difficulty’. For woman aged 60 or more, 20% say they are unable to read and a further 5% have a lot of difficulty reading
  • Nelson Mandela, among other things, has received honorary degrees from more than 50 international universities worldwide. He also had a nuclear particle (the ‘Mandela particle’), a prehistoric woodpecker (Australopicus Nelsonmandelai) and an orchid (Paravanda Nelson Mandela) named after him.
  • Attendance in SA’s 26 Universities is estimated at 1 million enrolled students (622 000 at 25 Universities and 400 000 at UNISA)
  • The Cost of Education in SA: Education inflation is higher than South Africa’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) and this gap has widened from around 2% in the early 2000s to a probable 4% in 2017. This means that a parent whose child starts grade R in 2017 can expect to pay between *R1 332 112 and R3 011 415 – for public or private education respectively. This rand amount includes primary school, high school and a three year University qualification in 2032”.*
  • The Rhodes Scholarship, established in 1902 and named after Cecil John Rhodes, is an international postgraduate award. It is widely regarded as ‘the most prestigious scholarship in the world’ with more than 7,000 Rhodes Scholars.
  • Nine of South Africa’s 23 universities rank in the top 4% of the 20 000 registered universities worldwide, and 11 in the top 8%. None of our Universities rank below 10 000th (QS Survey which involves 60 000 academics and 30 000 business executives worldwide)
University 2019 QS Global Ranking
UCT 198
WITS 400
UJ 501
KZN 788
UWC 800

With the recent AACSB accreditation, the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business is now one of just 59 out of 13,670 business schools worldwide to be triple-crowned – schools that are accredited by the three largest and most influential business school accreditation associations namely AMBA (the Association of MBAs), European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) and Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

  • The University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) 45th and UCT 51st are ranked in the Top 80 business Schools in the world (Financial Times Executive Education rankings 2019)
  • Some 12 million learners receive free cooked meals as part of the National School Nutrition Programme Annual Report 2018/19.
  • The first MBA programme outside of the United States was started by the University of Pretoria in 1949.
  • Stellenbosch University was the first African university in the world to design and launch a microsatellite.

7. Environmental

  • Farming and land Redistribution: Textiles, poultry and sugar farming are labour intensive industries with big scope for emerging farmers. Government has released 167 000 units of land belonging to SOEs (totalling 14 100 ha) for redistribution to citizens. Thirty-year leases on 1 400 farms have also been signed with beneficiary farmers.
  • At the end of 2018, South Africa entered the world top 10 of countries harnessing renewable energy from the sun, with 15 solar plants contributing 503 MW to the country’s grid.
  • In 1991, South Africa became the first country in the world to provide full protection status for the Great White shark within its jurisdictional waters. Countries including USA, Australia, Malta and Namibia followed suit later.
  • Cape Town has the fifth-best blue sky in the world according to the UK’s National Physical Laboratory.
  • Johannesburg ranks 2nd among countries from Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa in dealing with urbanisation and environmental challenges, (MasterCard Insights Report)
  • South Africa is the only country to house an entire floral kingdom (Fynbos), one of only 6 on the planet.
  • The Vredefort Dome (or Vredefort crater) in the Free State, is the largest verified impact crater on Earth at between 250 and 300km in diameter and is estimated to be over 2 billion years old.
  • South Africa has the highest level of international certification of its tree plantations in the world. Over 80% of South African plantations are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa
  • All paper in South Africa is produced from plantation grown trees, recycled paper or bagasse (sugar cane fibre). Fibre is not sourced from the wood of rainforests, indigenous or boreal trees. This is a myth, often wrongfully perpetuated by e-mail footnotes. Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa
  • SA’s renewable energy programme is the fastest growing in the world. Private sector investment in renewable energy generation will reach R193bn following the announcement of another 13 preferred bidders for wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects.
  • South African high net worth individuals are found to be the second most financially generous nation behind the United States, and fourth most generous in giving their time after Ireland, India and the USA.
  • 320 major dams in South Africa supply 32,400,000,000 cubic litres of water per annum.

8. Social

  • Falsity travels like wildfire: A 2018 MIT study examined Twitter from 2006 through 2017 and found that true stories took about six times as long as false stories to reach 1 500 people. The top 1% of false stories were often shared by 1 000 to 100 000 people, while true stories were seldom shared by more than 1 000 people.
  • Housing: Just over 80% of South African households lived in formal dwellings in 2019, followed by 14% in informal dwellings, and 6% in traditional dwellings. The highest percentage of households that lived in informal dwellings were observed in North West (20%) and Gauteng (20%). Traditional dwellings were most common in Eastern Cape (22%) and KwaZulu-Natal (14%).
  • Unquenchable Thirst: According to a statistical update from the World Health Organization, pure alcohol consumption in South Africa was at 11.5 litres per capita per year in 2017. This pushes South Africa up to the third biggest drinking nation in Africa and the 19th biggest drinking nation in the world. Among the drinking population (excluding abstainers), South Africans consume in the region of 27 litres of pure alcohol per capita per year. 60% of adults don’t consume alcohol.
  • Fast Fact: 6 Positive ways in which SA has developed over the last 15 years
    Every year Stats SA releases its General Household Survey (GHS). The survey is conducted in the preceding year from January through to December.
    1) Education
    The percentage of people with no formal schooling has dropped by 6.7 percentage points nationally between 2002 and 2017.
    2) Literacy
    Nationally, the literacy rates of people over the age of 20 have consistently remained over 90% between 2002 and 2017 and even increased from 91.9% in 2002 to 94.3% in 2017.
    The highest literacy percentages were observed in the Western Cape (98.1%), Gauteng (97.8%) and the Free State (94.2%). The metropolitan areas of the City of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay and the City of Johannesburg all saw a literacy rate of 99%.
    3) Health
    The overwhelming majority of South Africans reported their health as being good or better. Of those surveyed, 39.9% reported their health as being good, 21.5% reported their health as being very good and 30.9% reported their health as being excellent.
    4) Electricity
    The percentage of households connected to electricity mains has increased from 76.7% in 2002 to 84.4% in 2017. The Eastern Cape made the biggest jump of all provinces by increasing from only 55.3% in 2002 to 85.4% of households in 2017.
    5) Sanitation
    The number of households with access to improved sanitation saw a massive growth of 20.5 percentage points between 2002 and 2017. The percentage of households with no toilet also decreased from 12.6% in 2002 to 3.1% in 2017.
    6). Access to food
    The percentage of households who were vulnerable to hunger has decreased from 24.2% to 10.4% over the 15-year period.
    Written by: Landi Groenewald Source LEAD SA.
  • TV is king: According to PAMS 2017, 75% of South African adults watch television every day of the week while only 8% indicated that they do not watch television at all during an average week. 54% listen to the radio every day of the week while 14% indicated that they do not listen to the radio at all during an average week.
  • Social Media: Covered: South Africans can now be covered against allegations of defamation or invasion of privacy while using any form of social media. The insurance, launched by SHA Specialist Underwriters is the first of its kind in South Africa. The policy costs R120 per year for R500,000 cover.
  • Biggest Braai: According to Guinness World Records, South Africa holds the record for the most people cooking simultaneously (multiple venues). The record was achieved on Heritage Day in 2013, with 2,353 individuals braaiing at registered venues across the country. The previous record was set by Japan in 2011, with 2,311 participants.
  • 9 million South Africans live with disabilities, yet only one percent have jobs (Source StatsSA)
  • #MandelaDay: In November 2009, the UN General Assembly declared 18 July ‘Nelson Mandela International Day’ in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom. Mandela Day has become an international campaign, now observed in 149 countries, which urges everyone, everywhere to take concrete steps towards improving life for others.
  • Population Growth: If a population is to remain stable 2.2 births are required per fertile woman. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world at 7.6 births per woman which is more than three times greater than South Africa’s fertility rate of 2.3 and more than six times greater than Hong Kong’s fertility rate of 1.2. Europe averages 1.6. Just under 2 million women in South Africa have a child under the age of two. More than two thirds (68%) of them are single (never married and not living together).
  • South Africa ranks top 10 globally in number of registered NGO’s, with over 100,000 and over 220 000 NPO’s. The corporate sector donates R9 billion to CSI initiatives and ordinary citizens R15 billion.
  • According to the 2011 Census, 79.2% of the population of SA were defined (or defined themselves) as Black, 8.9% Coloured, 2.5% Asian and 8.9% White, with 0.5% other.
  • The current police to population ratio is approximately 1:308. This ranks South Africa as the 9th best globally
  • In 2018, 17 million South Africans benefited from access to social grants, 12 million of which were children, 3.5 million pensioners and 1.5 million with disabilities at a cost of R140 billion. In 1994, only 2.5 million people had access to social grants, the majority of which were pensioners.
  • Since 1994, 435 houses have been built each day for the poor.
  • South Africa is ranked number 21 in terms of language diversity out of 224 countries. Papua New Guinea is ranked as the most linguistically diverse country and the Vatican the least. (Greenbergs diversity Index. com)
  • SA ranks 36th in terms of “lowest divorce rate” per 100,000 of population. (Economist 2020).
  • South Africa is ranked 26th in the world for gross indoor exhibition space at 180,000 square meters, which is approx 25% of all exhibition space available in Africa, according to the 2011 World Map of Exhibition Venues published by the UFI.
  • The Global Peace Index (GPI) uses qualitative and quantitative metrics to measure the safety of 163 countries, as well as assess the economic value of peace. According to the GPI, Iceland is the most peaceful country on Earth. South Africa places 127th, USA 128th, Russia 154th, Afghanistan 163rd
  • South African media ranks 31st out of 180 countries in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index, up 6 places from last year. Norway 1st, UK 33rd, USA 48th North Korea 180th.
  • SA has the 19th largest prisoner to population ratio (USA is number 1).

9. Infrastructure

Three South African cities were voted amongst the world’s top 100 Most Liveable Cities in the 2019 study conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. In Africa, Port Louis (83) was the city with the best quality of living and also its safest (59). It was closely followed for overall quality of living by the South African cities of Durban (88), Cape Town (95) and Johannesburg (96).

  • Johannesburg is ranked as the 34th largest city in the world with a population of 9.4 million. Tokyo is the largest with a population of 38 million (Economist 2018).
  • Out of 100 countries surveyed by World Data SA has the 58th highest cost of living; Switzerland # 1, India # 100
  • South Africa is the 20th largest producer of energy (Economist 2020)
  • SA’s has the 9th longest road network in the world but is not ranked in the top 50 most crowded networks. (Economist 2020).
  • SA’s has the 11th longest rail network in the world and 29th in terms of rail freight tons per annum. (Economist 2020)

10. Health

  • A wors by any other name:The label ‘boerewors’ can only be used on sausages that contain 90% meat (beef, pork or goat are allowed) of which no more than 30% may be fat. It should not contain any offal or mechanically removed meat. (Google ‘mechanically removed meat’ at your own peril).
  • Viral Infection: Dengue is ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most important and fastest growing mosquito-borne viral disease in the world today, causing nearly 500 million infections every year. In the last five decades, dengue has spread from being present in a handful of countries to being endemic in 128 countries, where about 4 billion people live.
  • Life expectancy: In South Africa, the average life expectancy for women is highest in the Western Cape at 72 and lowest in the Free State at 62. Similarly, for men, it is also at its highest at 66 in the Western Cape and at its lowest in the Free State at 55. The life expectancy is calculated with the absence of HIV/Aids-related deaths.
    According to researchers from Imperial College in London, South Africa has the 76th shortest average height for women in the world at 158 cm, while South African men are ranked 47th overall for the average height of 167 cm. Dutch men and Latvian women are now the tallest people in the world at 183 cm and 170 cm
  • Disease: Health burden: According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 422 million adults were living with diabetes in 2014, compared to 108 million in 1980. The global prevalence of diabetes among adults aged 18 and above was 8.5% in 2014, compared to 4.7% in 1980. In 2015, an estimated 1.6 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes. WHO projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030
  • BMI: According to an analysis of Body Mass Index for people aged 15 and older, more than two-thirds (68%) of women in South Africa are overweight or obese, 3% are thin, and 30% are in the normal range. In contrast, just under one third of men (31%) are overweight or obese, 10% are thin, and the majority of men (59%) have a BMI in the normal range.
  • South Africa has 1 doctor per 1000 population and 3 beds per 1000 population (Spain 3 doctors per 1000 population and 3.4 beds, UK 2 doctors per 1000 population and 4 beds, South Korea 1.4 doctors per 1000 population and 7.1 beds, USA 2.7 doctors per 1000 population and 3 beds). (Economist)
  • South Africa ranked 4th in terms of HIV/Aids prevalence amongst population behind Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho. (Economist 2016)
  • SA ranks 16th in terms of death per 1000 of population (15) alongside Russia, Ukraine at # 1 (17), UK ranks 58th (10).
  • One in five South African adults attend a gym/health club or participate in other exercise (not at a gym/health club), at least monthly.

11. Miscellaneous

  • Oxford Dictionary additions – South African words “Kiff” added To the Oxford dictionary plus 23 other South African words
  • Mother Tongues: With 11 official languages, South Africa ranks second in the world of countries with the most official languages. While India has 16 official languages, in contrast, Mexico and the Unites States have no official languages.
  • Billions: A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of its press releases.
  1. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
    B. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
    C. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
    D. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.
    E. A billion Rand is spent in only 27 hours and 12 minutes, at the rate the SA government is spending it.
  • The only street in the world to house 2 Nobel Peace Prize winners is in Soweto. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have houses in Vilakazi Street, Orlando West. SA ranks 7th in terms of number of Nobel Peace prizes. (Economist 2020).
  • Two of the world’s most profoundly compassionate philosophies originated in South Africa – Ubuntu (the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity) and Gandhi’s notion of “Passive resistance” (Satyagraha), which he developed while living in South Africa.
  • The Western Deep Level mines are the world’s deepest mines at approaching 4km.
  • South Africa houses one of the three largest telescopes in the world at Sutherland in the Karoo.
  • South Africa is the first, and to date the only, country to build nuclear weapons and then voluntarily dismantle its entire nuclear weapons programme.
  • South Africa ranks 15th in terms of Arms exporters (Economist 2020)
  • Africa ranks 26 in terms of satellites in space (Economist 2020)
  • South Africa ranks 19th in terms of emitters of carbon dioxide and per person is 30th (Economist 2020)
  • Pretoria is ranked the 25th most polluted city (Economist 2020)
  • SA ranks outside the top 22 countries in terms of beer consumption (Czech 1; Germany 2; Austria 3; Estonia 4).(Economist 2020)
  • SA has 56 million active cell phones (population 55 million) – ranking in the top 15 globally in terms of cell phone coverage (Economist 2020)
  • SA has 82 colour TV’s per 100 households, 9 telephone lines per 100 population and 90 mobile telephone subscribers per 100 population. (Economist 23020).
  • SA ranks 28th in terms of cinema visits per 1000 population. (Economist 2020).

South Africa is ranked 94th out 178 countries in respect of “brain drain”. Somalia 1st, Sweden 178th

12. Tax

  • South Africa is ranked 19 out of 189 economies in the 2018 Paying Taxes study conducted by the World Bank and PwC in terms of how easy it is for a medium-sized case study company to pay its taxes.
  • According to the study, the total tax rate globally is almost 41%. It takes the average medium-sized company 264 hours to comply with its taxes compared to 200 hours it takes a similar company in SA.
  • The study showed that a South African company only has seven tax payments, compared to the average of almost 26 payments.
  • SA has the 40th-lowest total tax rate out of the 189 economies included in the study. (Business Day 2018)

13. Corruption


  • SA ranks 77 out of 183 countries in the Global Corruption Perception Index 2019 (Where 1 is least corrupt and 180 most corrupt). In 2008 SA ranked 50/168. In 2013 SA ranked 72/168. In 2019 China 90, Brazil 110, Russia 146, Zimbabwe 163, USA 25, UK 15.
  • In the sub-Saharan Africa region, the index ranks South Africa at position four.
  • Botswana 35/168 remains the top scorer in Africa at 60/100

14. Global Competitiveness 

Brand South Africa Research – Internal Analysis

South Africa’s Performance in the 2019 WEF Global Competitiveness Index

9 October 2019

  1. Highlights

Competitiveness has a direct impact on the reputation of countries for a variety of reasons. It particularly plays a role in framing an understanding of the broader enabling environment(s) that impact on societal productivity, efficiency.

Competitiveness is a major factor that impacts on FDI decisions.

In the 2019 edition of the WEF Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) South Africa shows strong improvements, being:

  • In terms of over-all ranking South Africa improves with seven positions from 67/140 in 2018, to 60/141 nations in 2019;
  • The Institutions pillar improves from 69/140 to 55/141 – this is important due to reputation damage in the area of governance in recent years;
  • Health, also historically a weaker area of SA’s performance, improves from 125 to 118 in 2019;
  • Product Market improves from 74 to 69 in 2019

It is positive for South Africa to improve in its over-all competitiveness profile, and ranking. However, while there are notable improvements in the 2019 GCI, it is also important to note that there are several indicators which show negative movement.

The most salient improvements and declines are explored in the section below. A few high-level achievements to note:

  • According to GCI data South Africa now ranks as number one (1/141) nation for budget transparency. This is a major ranking which clearly illustrates the robustly transparent political governance system of the country, anchored in the constitution of the Republic.
  • This data is also supported by the Open Budget Index wherein South Africa ranks 2/103 nations – clearly underlining the fact that South Africa has extremely high levels of transparency in its political governance system.
  • South Africa’s ranking on judicial independence also improves markedly with fifteen positions on 2018 – currently at 33/141 nations.
  • Interestingly enough, following on 2018, a year wherein local and global media carried extensive (and mostly negative) commentary on South Africa’s proposed Land Expropriation without Compensation policy, South Africa’s rankings in the following areas improved, being: Property rights, as well as Quality of Land Administration!
  1. South Africa’s performance per pillar

The WEF GCI is composed of twelve pillars, each covering a unique area of performance that ultimately influences the over-all competitiveness profile of the market. WEF Global Competitiveness Index


South Africa


2018 Rank (/140)

2019 (/141)

Over-all rank









ICT Adoption



Macro-economic stability









Product market



Labour market



Finance system



Market size



Business dynamism



Innovation capability




SA is the 29th biggest economy globally (PPP), and roughly the same population-wise and geographically. Our rankings should match this. Since 2002 our global political rankings have yo-yo’d considerably. Good to see a significant improvement 2019/2020.


SA is the 29th biggest economy globally (PPP), and roughly the same population-wise and geographically. Our rankings should match this. Since 2002 our global political rankings have deteriorated across the board.

Although we are still considered a premier league country, with overall rankings in the top 60 countries (there are 235 countries in the world, only 80 with populations in excess of 10 million people) the above rankings:

  • some good
  • some average
  • some bad

Sum up the challenges we have as a country.


SA is the 29th biggest economy globally (PPP), and roughly the same population-wise and geographically. Our rankings should match this. Since 2002 our global political rankings have yo-yo’d considerably. Good to see a significant improvement 2019/2020.


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