SA Fast Facts

S.A. FAST FACTS – 2017 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 2016/2017, the Economist and

In 2017 South Africa ranks as the 47th MOST COMPETITIVE out of 138 countries, an improvement of 9 places over 2015 (56th 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.
The Table below compares SA with Africa and Advanced Economies on the 12 ‘pillars’.

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

  • 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 2015, South Africa has the 3rd most transparent budget in the world behind New Zealand and Sweden. In 2010, SA was ranked 1st. (International Budget Partnership)
  • South Africa is the only African country that is a member of the G20.
  • South Africa ranks 6th overall on the 2015 Ibrahim Index which measures the quality of African governance, Mauritius, Cape Verde, Botswana, Seychelles and Namibia took the first five places out of 52. SA dropped 2 places from 2015 Ibrahim Foundation)
Rank Country Overall Change since 2011
1 Mauritius 79.9 0.7
2 Cape Verde 74.5 1.9
3 Botswana 74.2 1.8
4 Namibia 74.0 0.9
5 Seychelles 70.4 2.0
6 South Africa 70.3 0.8

Economic Freedom

  • The 2017 Economic Freedom of the World report states SA is one of 87 “free” countries, with 59 ‘partially free’ and 49 ‘not free’, but warns ‘A weakened African National Congress will choose a new leader in 2017, and state institutions could be drawn into intraparty rivalries ahead of the ANC conference, testing the strength of the country’s democracy.”
  • In another Economic Freedom Index SA has improved to 81st ‘Moderately Free” from 89th last year out of 180 countries.
  • South Africa ranked 39th out of 167 countries surveyed in 2016, seven places down from the 2011 Democracy Index, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, but ahead of all BRICS countries.
  • 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 2016, 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.

Arrows indicate Improvement/Deterioration/Same 2017 over 2016 (2010 there for comparison).


  Denotes Improvement
  Denotes Deterioration
  Denotes Stayed the same


Category 2016 Ranking 140 countries 2017 Ranking 138 countries 2010 Ranking 134 countries
Transparency of government policy making 39 44 27
Irregular payments and bribes 50 53 48
Wastefulness of government spending 91 88 38
Diversion of public funds 94 96 56
Public trust in politicians 98 109 65
Government procurement of advanced technical products 119 99 103
Favouritism in decisions of Government officials 105 115 114
Burden of government regulation 117 106 69

2. Economic

  • 2017/2018 South Africa was ranked 61st in the WEF Global Competitiveness Report, our lowest ranking ever.
  • 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. Source:
  • Women In charge: The Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks the 500 largest United States corporations by total revenue. As of 2017, there are 32 women CEOs on the list, representing 6.4% of the Fortune 500 CEO roles. (
  • Economist: The Economist Pocket World in Figures ranks South Africa 28th out of 190 countries in terms of Cinema Attendance with 20.9 million ‘visits’ per annum. India is # 1 with 2,117 million visits per annum followed by the USA with 1,270 million visits per annum. Iceland has the most ‘visits’ per person @ 4.3.
  • Generous: According to a 2010 survey of 2,000 high net worth individuals (HNWI) from 20 countries around the world, South African HNWI are amongst the world’s most generous philanthropists. SA was found to be the second most financially generous nation behind the United States, and the fourth most generous in giving their time after Ireland, India and the USA. (Source:
  • 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 2016, 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). (Source:
  • 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 $20 billion. However as a percentage of gross national income (GNI), Sweden was the largest foreign aid contributor (1.4% of GNI) followed by the UAE (1.1%) and Norway (1.05%). (Source
  • Property Prices: According to the Economist SA ranks 4th on the % improvement to property prices 2015 from a year earlier at 9.7 % – Ireland 1st at 16%. When 2015 is compared with 2009 SA ranks 6th at a 40% improvement – Brazil 1st at 155%.
  • In the Economist BIG MAC Index of 2016, a measure of the extent to which currencies are under-valued, SA ranks 5th with a 55% under evaluation against the US$
  • Household help: According to AMPS2015 data, 2 million households in South Africa (13% of households) have one or more domestic workers or household helpers in the household. The average monthly household income of these households is R30,512. – (Eighty20) –
  • Ease of doing business: 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. The country fared well in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness index 2016-17, ranking 47th out of 138 countries.- (Eighty20) –
  • Municipal spend: The municipal audit tracks irregular expenditure (expenditure not incurred in the manner prescribed by legislation), wasteful expenditure (expenditure that could have been avoided) and unauthorised expenditure (expenditure incurred without provision having been made for it in the budget). The audit for 2014/15 shows that the provinces with the highest proportion of municipalities with clean audit opinions were the Western Cape (73%), Gauteng (33%) and KwaZulu-Natal (30%) – (Eighty20) –
  • 23% 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. – (Eighty20) –
  • South Africa’s Overall ranking moved to 47th out of 140 countries in the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, an improvement of 9 places from 56th 2015.
  • South African Tax Revenue has increased from R100 billion in 1994 to R1,4 trillion in 2016.
  • South Africa’s debt to GDP ratio is 48% (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 2017 Global Competitive Report.
  • SA ranked 1st in Platinum output, 2nd in Palladium output, 5th in Gold output, 7th in Coal output and 12th in wool output. (Economist 2016)
  • SA is ranked 2nd out of 183 countries for good practice in protecting both borrowers and lenders when obtaining credit for business (World Bank Doing Business Report )
  • South Africa is ranked 17th out of a total of 145 economies in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2015, ahead of many developed nations, including, the UK (18th), United States (28), Canada (30), Australia (36) and France (57).
  • South Africa ranked 11th in terms of “largest deficits” but as a percentage of GDP is not in the top 40 countries. (Economist 2016).
  • The JSE ranks 18th in terms of “largest market capitalisation” and the 3rd best regulated out of 140 countries. (Economist 2016)
  • SA is ranked 23rd out of 81 countries in the Jones Lang LaSalle’s “World’s most Transparent Real Estate Markets” placing it well ahead of China, Brazil, India and Russia. “Robust governance, strong auditing and a developed legal system” were cited as the main reasons for leading the developing markets in this rating.
  • South Africa manufactured 560 000 vehicles in 2013, the world manufactures 87 000 000 vehicles per annum.(Naamsa)
  • South Africa ranks 26th out of 192 countries in the Economist’s “Largest Gold Reserves” Index.
  • SA ranks 32nd out of 165 countries in terms of the size of its US$ reserves, ahead of Australia, Sweden and Chile. The USA ranks 17th, the UK 23rd, China is ranked 1 (The Economist)
  • 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 24th in terms of number of cars sold. (Economist 2016).
  • SA ranks 37th in terms of manufacturing output and 30th in terms of services output (Economist 2016).
  • South Africa ranks 37th out of 192 countries in the Economist’s “Biggest Exporters” Index.(2016).
  • 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.
  • South Africans owe government institutions like the South African Revenue Service (Sars), municipalities and traffic authorities a staggering R180 billion in overdue taxes, municipal accounts and traffic fines. – (Eighty20) –
  • Of South African adults that have accessed the internet in the past 4 weeks, 70% used Facebook, 29% say they did online banking, 10% downloaded a podcast and 9% used online dating. – (Eighty20) –

Arrows indicate Improvement/Deterioration/Same 2017 over 2016 (2010 there for comparison).


  Denotes Improvement
  Denotes Deterioration
  Denotes Stayed the same


Category 2016 Ranking 2017 Ranking 2010 Ranking
Regulation of Securities Exchange 2 3 2
Availability of financial services 6 2 7
Soundness of banks 8 2 6
Financing through local equity market 1 1 4
Domestic market size index 27 27 24
Ease of access to loans 32 12 26
Effect of taxation on incentives to invest 35 41 28
Venture capital availability 47 53 44
Foreign market size 36 34 39
Agricultural policy costs 73 70 37
Total tax rate, % profits 41 31 48
Country credit rating 50 63 48
General government debt, % GDP 75 73 68
Inflation, annual % change 108 95 76
Gross national savings 101 97 87
Exports as a percentage of GDP 94 81 99

3. Business

  • 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.(Source:
  • Fast Food Nation: Statistics South Africa recorded income from the ‘takeaway and fast-food outlet’ sector as R170 billion in 2015. In May this year there were around 4,780 fast food franchise outlets in South Africa. The top three franchises by number of outlets are KFC (840 outlets), Steers (542) and Wimpy (492).(Source:
  • Connected: Over the past five years the number of internet users in South Africa has more than doubled from 8.6 million users in 2012 to an expected 22.5 million by the end of 2017. (
  • Sweat it: According to The Economist, South Africa has the highest fitness club revenue in the world with an estimated yearly revenue of $931 million. According to AMPS 2.7 million South African adults attend the gym at least once a week and a further 1.5 million attend the gym at least once a month. Sweat it – Eighty20
  • SA ranks 14 out of 140 countries in strength of investor protection, according to the Global Competitiveness Report 2015/16.
  • South Africa is ranked 54th out of 138 countries for ‘Number of procedures to start a Business’ Economist 2016.
  • South Africa is the winner of the National Outsourcing Association’s (NOA’s) Offshoring Destination of the Year Award 2012.
  • Exports from Africa were worth about US$582 billion in 2013, up 58.7% since 2009. African exports represent an estimated 3.2% of total world exports. SA is the second top exporting country in Africa with $95.2 bn (main exports include gold, diamonds and platinum).
  • Over 90% of Africa’s imports and exports are conducted by sea. The busiest port in Africa is the Port of Durban which welcomes about 4 500 vessels per year and in 2013/14 it handled about 44.8 million tonnes of cargo.- (Eighty20) –
  • Ease of Doing Business: 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. Similarly, the country fared well in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness index 2016-17, ranking 47th out of 138 countries.

Arrows indicate Improvement/Deterioration/Same 2017 over 2016 (2010 there for comparison).


  Denotes Improvement
  Denotes Deterioration
  Denotes Stayed the same


Category 2016 Ranking 2017 Ranking 2010 Ranking
Strength of Auditing and Reporting Standards 1 1 2
Ease of doing business 50 47 58
Protection of minority shareholders 1 1 9
Strength of investor protection 10 14 10
Reliance on professional management 21 21 18
Business costs of terrorism 30 64 33
No. of procedures to start a business 24 54 24
Prevalence of foreign ownership 32 31 34
Redundancy costs 33 28 46
Local supplier quality 38 34 31
Brain drain 39 69 88
Ethical behaviour of firms 35 36 51
Burden of customs procedures 62 65 62
Business impact of rules on FDI 104 61 55
Trade tariffs 76 78 72
No of days to start a business 32 125 80
Women in labour force, ration to men 84 69 76
Pay and productivity 136 98 133
Business costs of crime and violence 133 133 133
Flexibility of wage determination 139 135 123
Hiring and firing practices 145 135 123
Cooperation in labour-employer relations 144 138 121

4. Tourism


  • 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. (Source:
  • Travel
    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. (Source
  • Visitors: During the State of the Nation Address, President Zuma stated that between January and November last year around 9 million tourists visited South Africa, a 13% increase on the previous year. While the total number of tourists is correct, the year on year increase in tourist numbers is closer to 2%. (
  • 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. All ten countries showed an increase in the number of tourists to South Africa since August 2015. The highest increase of 66,1% was for tourists from China, followed by Spain at 51,5%. The increase in Chinese visitors may be related to the relaxed visa regulations that now allow tour operators to apply for visas for Chinese tourists. The United Kingdom (UK) had the smallest increase in tourists (9,8%) since the same time last year.
  • 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
  • Tourism numbers increased by 10.4% between January and October 2015. A total of 9,535,498 tourists arrived in the country during the period (15.5 million visitors), compared to 6,823,517 in 2011
  • SA ranks 24th in terms of visitors at 15.5 million (France 83 million, UK 29 million, Switzerland 8.5 million, India 6.6 million, Australia 6 million). (Economist)
  • South Africa is ranked 48th overall in the latest edition of the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Competitiveness Report 2016, which surveys 140 countries on their policies to develop the travel and tourism sector. (66th in 2011).
  • The Intercontinental Hotel at O.R. Tambo International Airport was named as the winner of the prestigious 2012 World Luxury Airport Hotel award at the global tourism industry awards.
  • Cape Town was named the top tourist destination in the world in the 2016 Traveler’s Choice Destinations awards.
  • Cape Town has been voted the Favourite City Worldwide for 2016 by 17,000 Telegraph readers in the UK.
  • The Cape Grace in the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town has been named 2nd Best Hotel in the World in the 2016 Tripadvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards
  • 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 27th, 31st and 35th respectively in the world.
  • 41 South African beaches were awarded Blue Flags, an international indicator of high environmental standards for recreational beaches in 2013 (up from 27 in 2010).
  • South Africa’s wine tourism has been rated the best-developed in the world by International Wine Review in 2012, one of the world’s most influential opinion formers on wine
  • According to CNNGo (CNN’s Travel Website), Cape Town is the 9th most loved city in the world in 2012.
  • TripAdvisor has named Boulders Beach as one of its top 10 truly unique beaches in the world 2012.
  • National carrier South African Airways (SAA) has won the Global Traveler’s magazine “Airline of the year” award for 2012 – the highest honour awarded by the publication for global business travelers.
  • Domestic travel: Just under 874,000 South African adults travelled by air inside of South Africa in the past 12 months. These domestic travelers did an average of 3.5 trips per person and just over half of the trips were primarily for business (53%), the remaining 47% were for pleasure. (Eighty20) –

5. Sport

  • 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. Source:
  • 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). – (Eighty20) –
  • 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.
  • According to The Cricketer magazine, Newlands in Cape Town is second-best Test Match venue in the world in 2012. Lords was first.
  • Natalie Du Toit became the first amputee ever to qualify for the Olympics (Beijing 2008), where she placed 16th in the women’s 10K race
  • 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. – (Eighty20) –
  • 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. – (Eighty20) –
  • 20% of South African adults are interested in rugby. 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.(AMPS2014B) – (Eighty20) –

6. Education

  • Literature and literacy: Freedom: South Africa is ranked 31st out of 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index (measuring the level of freedom available to journalists around the world), with North Korea ranked 180th. Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands comprise the top five spots. (Reporters Without Borders,
  • Nelson Mandela
    Fast Fact: 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. (Source:
  • Youth
    Out of school: In 2015 there were 565,000 children aged 7 to 18 not attending school. The most common reason cited, at 22%, is no money for fees, while a further 9% said it is because education is useless or not interesting. (Source:
  • Attendance in SA’s 26 Universities is estimated at 1 million enrolled students (622 000 at 25 Universities and 400 000 at UNISA)
  • SA Universities lead the field – Click for full article
  • Fast Fact: 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”.* Cost of one year’s education in 2017, 2022, 2030 and 2035
    2017 Primary or High School – Public R 32 000
    Primary School – Private R 78 000
    High School – Private R 125 000
    University R 54 000
    2022 Primary or High School – Public R 50 000
    Primary School – Private R 122 000
    High School – Private R 197 000
    University R 85 000
    2030 Primary or High School – Public R 103 000
    Primary School – Private R 253 000
    High School – Private R 406 000
    University R 176 000
    2035 Primary or High School – Public R 149 000
    Primary School – Private R 364 000
    High School – Private R 584 000
    University R 253 000
    The figures on the cost of education are based on selected ex-model C government and private schools and universities. The projected annual fees are increased at a flat rate of 9.5% annually. This includes university fees where the long term strategy for fee increase restrictions are still uncertain. The 2017 university fee increases were in line with actual restrictions imposed by government.
  • 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.
  • SA has 30,000 ordinary public and independent schools. (Department of Basic Education)
  • In 1994 only 12,000 schools had electricity, In 2015, approximately 25,000 have access to electricity
  • According to the 2011 census, 81.2% (45.6%) of 5 year olds, 97% (94.6%) of 9 year olds, 95.8% (95.1%) of 13 year olds and 85.6% (81.5%) of 17 year olds attend an educational establishment. 2001 figures in brackets.
  • The matric class of 2015 achieved a pass rate of 70%, a drop of 3.7% from 2014.
  • The University of South Africa (UNISA) is a pioneer of tertiary distance education and is the largest correspondence university in the world with approximately 300,000 students.
  • According to the 2012 school day statistics, there were 12,428,069 learners in ordinary public and independent schools, served by 425,167 educators. This equates to a learner to teacher ratio of 1:29 in 2012. This has improved from 1:50 in 1994 (Department of Basic Education)
  • 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)


QS World University Rankings 2015/16 – South Africa
2015 2014 Institution Name
501-550 601-650 RHODES UNIVERSITY
© QS Quacquarelli Symonds 2004-2015 All rights reserved.


  • 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) is the highest ranked African business school and is ranked 42nd overall in the world (Financial Times Executive Education rankings 2013)
  • The University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business is ranked 74th in the world for the quality of its MBA program, according to the Financial Times Global MBA rankings 2013
  • Some 9 million learners receive free cooked meals as part of the National School Nutrition Programme Annual Report 2012/13.
  • 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

According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2015/16, South Africa ranks (out of 140 countries, 2009/10 rankings in [ ]):

Arrows indicate Improvement/Deterioration/Same 2017 over 2016 (2010 there for comparison).


  Denotes Improvement
  Denotes Deterioration
  Denotes Stayed the same


Category 2016 Ranking 2017 Ranking 2010 Ranking
Quality of management schools 24 21 29
University-industry collaboration in R&D 31 27 26
Quality of scientific research institutions 33 29 30
Capacity for innovation 32 25 46
Availability of research and training services 33 33 57
Secondary education enrolment gross % 12 67 62
Tertiary education enrolment 93 99 111
Internet access in schools 119 111 100
Primary education enrolment, net % 102 44 136
Availability of scientists and engineers 106 112 122
Quality of primary education 127 126 133
Quality of the educational system 138 134 119
Quality of maths and science education 140 138 139

7. Environmental

  • At the end of 2014, 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 electricity grid.- (Eighty20) –
  • 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.
  • SA ranks 13th in terms of biggest emitters of CO², 9th as a proportion of GDP and 33rd in terms of CO² per person. (Economist 2016).
  • 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
  • The proportion of the South African population using improved drinking water sources was 94% in 2013, up from 83% in 1990. (WHO/UNICEF, March 2012)
  • 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. – (Eighty20) –
  • 320 major dams in South Africa supply 32,400,000,000 cubic litres of water per annum.

8. Social

  • Connect: According to the Establishment Survey 2017, just under one third of South African adults (15+) live in rural areas. In the past 7 days, 90% of rural dwellers have watched TV, 86% have listened to the radio, 17% have read a newspaper and 6% have read a magazine. (Establishment Survey 2017) (Source:
  • 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. (Source:
  • 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 braaing at registered venues across the country. The previous record was set by Japan in 2011, with 2,311 participants. (
  • 2.9 million South Africans live with disabilities, yet only one percent have jobs (Source StatsSA)
  • Gender roles: The latest Grant Thornton International Business Report reveals that, globally, 25% of senior management positions are held by women. The percentage for South Africa is slightly higher, at 28%. Russia is in the lead at 47% while Japan has the lowest proportion with 7% of senior roles held by women.
  • Giving back: Total CSI expenditure in South Africa was estimated to be worth R8.6 billion in 2016. Education received the most support (48% of total CSI spend in 2016), followed by community development (15%) and health (9%).Source (
  • #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). (Source: Eighty20)
  • In respect of MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) SA is ranked as a top 40 destination globally.
  • Marriage and divorce
    I don’t: In the decade between 2004 and 2014, the number of divorces decreased by more than 20% from 31,768 divorces in 2004 to 24,689 divorces in 2014. In 2014 the median age at the times of divorce was 43 years for men and 40 years for women. Just under half of the divorces in 2014 were marriages that lasted for less than 10 years. (Source:
  • It is estimated that over the past four weeks approximately 7 % of SA’s adult population have participated in prayer meetings, marches, protests, and demonstrations in the broad SAVE SOUTH AFRICA campaign.
  • South Africa ranks top 10 globally in number of registered NGO’s, with over 100,000. The corporate sector donates R9 billion to CSI initiatives and ordinary citizens R15 billion.
  • According to the 2011 Census, the distribution of the South African population by province is: Gauteng 23.7% (+15%), Kwazulu-Natal 19.8% (+0.1%), Eastern Cape 12.7% (+0.5%), Western Cape 11.3% (+10.3%), Limpopo 10.4% (+3.2%), Mpumalanga 7.8% (+10.9%), North West 6.8% (+14.9%), Free State 5.3% (-1%) and Northern Cape 2.2% (+8.3%). (Figures in brackets show the population change since 2007).
  • 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.
  • According to the 2011 Census, 30.3% of males are aged 14 and under (2001- 33.4%), 65.6% are aged 15-64 (62.8%) and 4.1% are aged 65 and over (3.8%). For females, 28.1% are aged 14 and under (30.8%), 65.4% are aged 15-64 (63.2%) and 6.5% are aged 65 and over (6%).
  • SA’s population is the 25th largest in the world (there are 235 countries, only 80 have a population in excess of 10 million).
  • 359,000 South Africans have returned in the past five years. _SA Homecoming Revolution
  • The current police to population ratio is approximately 1:308. This ranks South Africa as the 9th best globally
  • There are 195,000 in the employ of SA Police. There are 411,000 in the employ of private security companies. TOTAL 606,000. Divide by 53,000,000. Conclusion: for every 90 citizens there is someone looking after some or other aspect of safety and security. Or put differently 1250 security ‘officials’ per 100,000 citizens! (Business Day)
  • The percentage of the South African population with access to clean drinking water has increased from 62% in 1994, to 94% in 2013. Access to electricity has increased from 34% in 1994, to 88% in 2012.
  • In 2017, 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.
  • According to Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform 90% of the land re-distributed to emerging farmers (approx 930 farms) is lying fallow and unproductive
  • South Africa has ranked 41th out of 109 countries in the Global Food Security Index which has the US in the top spot and the Democratic Republic of Congo at the bottom.
  • SA ranks 36th in terms of “lowest divorce rate” per 100,000 of population. (Economist 2016).
  • 49% of Zulu speakers think the statement ‘Cultural customs and traditions define who I am’ is very true.27% of Afrikaans speakers feel the same way. – (Eighty20) –
  • 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.
  • South Africa has ranked a sad 142nd out of 151 countries on the 2012 Happy Planet Index, which measures the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for their citizens.
  • 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 126th out of the 163 countries. Botswana, which ranks 28th, is the most peaceful country in Africa.
  • With close to 107,000 new individual asylum claims registered in 2011 (one tenth of applications globally), South Africa was the world’s largest recipient of individual applications for the fourth successive year. Between 2006 and 2011, South Africa registered more than 816,000 new asylum applications, making it by far the top destination for asylum-seekers for this six-year period. (UNHCR Global Trends 2011) – (Eighty20) –
  • According to Reporters without Borders SA ranks 39th out 171 countries on Press Freedom, down from 24th ten years ago. NZ ranks 6, Namibia 17, Australia 25 and UK 34. Worse than us are Botswana 42, USA 49, Japan 61 and Brazil 99
  • Over the next three years, R7 billion will go to the School Infrastructure Backlogs Conditional Grant to replace infrastructure in 510 schools, and provide water to 1120 schools, sanitation to 741 schools and electricity to 916 schools.
  • In terms of total crimes recorded SA ranked 10th, USA 8th and the UK 6th

9. Infrastructure

  • Two South African cities were voted amongst the world’s top 100 Most Liveable Cities in the 2010 study conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. Cape Town was ranked in 86th place and Johannesburg 90th
  • 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 2016).
  • SA ranked 34 out of 192 countries in terms of infrastructure with 6th largest rail network and 10th largest road network, with airports ranked 22nd out of 138 countries.
  • South African media ranks 38th out of 178 countries in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2010, higher than France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and all of the other BRICS countries.
  • SA has the 19th largest prisoner to population ratio (USA is number 1).
  • Out of 230 cities surveyed around the world, Johannesburg ranks the 151st and Cape Town the 171st most expensive city for expatriates to live in according to the 2010 Cost of Living Standards Survey from Mercer Human Resource Consulting, ahead of Tokyo (2), Moscow (4), Hong Kong (8), London (=17), Paris (=17), Tel Aviv (19), Sao Paulo (21), Sydney (24), Rome (26), New York (27), Dubai (55) and Auckland (149).
  • South Africa is the 19th largest producer of energy (economist)
  • SA’s has the 10th longest road network in the world but is not ranked in the top 50 most crowded networks. (Economist 2016).
  • SA’s has the 6th longest rail network in the world and 9th in terms of rail freight tons per annum. (Economist 2016)


  Denotes Improvement
  Denotes Deterioration
  Denotes Stayed the same

Arrows indicate Improvement/Deterioration/Same 2017 over 2016 (2010 there for comparison).

Category 2016 Ranking 2017 Ranking 2010 Ranking
Quality of air transport infrastructure 14 10 17
Efficiency of legal framework challenging regulations 17 10 19
Efficiency of legal framework settling disputes 14 9 16
Intellectual property protection 24 21 30
Property rights 24 29 30
Judicial independence 24 16 35
Mobile telephone subscriptions 22 15 73
Availability latest technologies 41 44 39
Quality of roads 34 29 43
Quality of railroad infrastructure 42 40 46
Mobile broadband subscriptions 22 15 73
Quality of port infrastructure 38 37 60
Quality of overall infrastructure 59 59 60
International internet bandwidth 19 21 80
Reliability of police services 102 115 96
Broadband internet subscriptions 63 57 96
Individuals using internet 71 75 105
Fixed telephone lines 90 93 100
Organised crime 99 99 111

10. Health

  • Health of the nation
    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. (Source: Eighty20) Cat: Health
  • Great Expectations: According to the World Health Organisation, the life expectancy for men in SA is 62 years old, whilst for females it is 66 years old. The global average life expectancy is 71 years old.
  • The life expectancy of an average South African has increased to 62 in 2016 from 54 in 2009, according to The Lancet health journal
  • 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).
  • South Africa does not feature in the world’s 44 highest infant mortality rates, Sierra Leone # 1 at 106.Singapore has lowest infant mortality at 1.5. (Economist 2016)
  • 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.- (Eighty20) –


  Denotes Improvement
  Denotes Deterioration
  Denotes Stayed the same


Year 2016 2017 2010
Malaria cases per 100 000 population 28 25 130
Business impact of malaria 30 30 103
Infant mortality, deaths/1 000 live births 104 107 112
Business impact of tuberculosis 133 130 135
Life expectancy, years 127 130 136
HIV prevalence, % adult population 137 135 133
Tuberculosis cases/100 000 population 138 137 133
Business impact of HIV/AIDS 133 130 132

11. Miscellaneous

  • Food Wasted: According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, roughly one third of the annual food produced for human consumption every year (1.3 billion tonnes) gets lost or wasted. European and North American consumers waste 95-115 kg of food per capita each year, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg of food per capita each year (Source
  • Going digital: Around 5.1 million adults aged 15 and above in South Africa say they play card or board games at least once a month while 9.4 million play games on a computer, console or cell phone at least once a month.
  • World Data ForumOut of the box: The Global Open Data Index is an annual effort to measure the state of open government data around the world. Countries are given a score based on the amount of government data that exists and how accessible it is. In 2015, Taiwan, the UK and Denmark were ranked as having the most open data out of 122 countries, South Africa was ranked 54th.
    Source: South Africa has 11 official, state wide, languages, more than any other country.
  • 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 2016).
  • 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.
  • SA ranks 18th in terms of beer consumption (Czech 1; Germany 2; Austria 3; Estonia 4).
  • SA has 56 million active cell phones (population 53 million) – ranking in the top 5 globally in terms of cell phone coverage.
  • SA has 66 colour TV’s per 100 households, 9 telephone lines per 100 population and 90 mobile telephone subscribers per 100 population. (Economist).
  • 2 Cape Town restaurants are in the top 50 restaurants in the world according to the S.Pellegrino Worlds 50 Best Restaurants list 2010. La Colombe restaurant in Constantia, Cape Town, was voted the 12th best andLe Quartier Francais in Franschhoek came in at 31
  • South Africa has 8.5 computers per 100 population (UK 80, Spain 40, South Korea 47 and USA 80). (Economist).
  • SA ranks 28th in terms of cinema visits per 1000 population. (Economist).
  • South Africa does not feature on the “brain drain” list of 20 countries, but in the Global Competitiveness Report we rand 69th/138 countries.(Economist 2016).
  • Less than 2 out of every 10 business owners in JHB in the informal sector were cross-border migrants. Research conducted in 2014 by Gauteng City-Region Observatory.
  • SA’s foreign arrivals have grown more than 300 percent since 1994. International visitors contributed 43% (R94,2 billion) of total tourism spend in 2013.

12. Tax

  • South Africa is ranked 19 out of 189 economies in the 2015 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.
  • SA has two areas where it could still improve. This includes the total tax rate, which is currently at 29%. The total tax rate is made up of profit taxes (22% of the total tax rate comes from profit taxes), labour taxes and other 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 2015)

13. Corruption


  • Bribery Facts you won’t know – or maybe?
  • Bad apples: The government’s national anti-corruption hotline allows South Africans to report fraudulent activities within the public service. Since its establishment in 2004, information received via the hotline has led to over 18,000 cases referred to departments. A total of 3,570 civil servants have been charged with corruption and just under 1,700 have been dismissed.
  • SA ranks 64 out of 168 countries in the global Corruption Perception Index (Where 1 is least corrupt and 175 most corrupt). In 2008 SA ranked 50/168. In 2013 SA ranked 72/168. Italy ranked 60, Brazil 79, China 79, Russia 131, Zimbabwe 156, USA 18, UK 10.
  • A score of 100 means country ‘clean’, score of 0 means highly corrupt.
  • SA scored 45/100, this means SA has significant corruption problem.
  • 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


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.

Comments welcome.

Leave a Reply