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SA makes huge strides in competitiveness stakes

May 04 2017 10:42
Liesl Peyper

Durban – South Africa came second out of 35 African economies in the Africa Competitiveness Report released on Thursday at the World Economic Forum on Africa.

South Africa’s global ranking for 2016-17 improved with nine places – from 56 in the 2014-’15 report to 47 out of 138 countries worldwide. The sectors in which South Africa excelled included financial market development, business sophistication, innovation and technological readiness.

Mauritius, although first on the African competitiveness ranking, has dropped six positions to 39 in the global ranking.

The authors of the Africa Competitiveness Report pointed out at a media conference that sub-Saharan countries specifically need to urgently implement structural reforms in their economies to generate enough jobs for their growing populations.

“If current policies remain unchanged, these countries will create less than one-quarter of the 450 million new jobs needed in the next 20 years,” the report stated.

The report recommended that African countries prioritise reform in the quality of institutions, infrastructure and skills development. 

Roberto Croti, WEF Economist, told Fin24 at the launch of the report that African countries haven’t seen major progress in its competitiveness rankings. “Africa comes from a period of fast growth and some countries will still grow more than 7%.”

He pointed out however that how countries will weather the headwinds of lower global growth in the face of expanding populations. “The question is: what are the prospects for Africa improving the quality of employment and employment in general? We haven’t seen any structural change taking place yet,” Croti said.

The authors of the report recommend that African countries start now with long-term policy implementations, such as improving education and the quality of skills development.

“On the short term there are some low-hanging fruits,” Croti said, such as changing sector-specific policies like urban planning and housing, and creating a more work-intensive manufacturing sector.

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