World’s highest death rate

2013-09-25 00:00

SOUTH Africa has the highest death rate in the world, with the country topping the rankings in world barometers measuring death due to murder, car accidents and health complications.

And KwaZulu-Natal records more deaths than any other province, with the largest proportion being in the age bracket between 15 and 49 years old, a key indicator as investors look for locations with skilled healthy workforces.

According to the U.S.-based CIA Factbook, a recognised source of up-to-date information on a variety of key indicators on a country-by-country basis, South Africa has the highest death rate globally, beating war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and the Central African Republic.

Furthermore, the World Health Organisation has placed South Africa in the top 10 for road traffic deaths at 31,5 people per 100 000 population, while the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Homicide Statistics for 2013 places South Africa as the eighth highest country for death by murder. The various institutions used a mixture of data from 2008-2011 to make their findings (see graphics).

Other key indicators on the CIA Factbook place South Africa as number one for HIV/Aids related deaths while StatsSA said in its “Mortality and Causes of Death” report released in April that KZN makes up 21% (115 889) of all deaths with tuberculosis, often linked to HIV/Aids infection, contributing 15,7% to the provincial total.

Yet KZN Treasury economist Clive Coetzee said death as a factor is not necessarily the most important element investors look at before deciding on which country to do business in.

“Investors may question what causes the death, but it is not the only factor they look at. Obviously, we would like our unnatural death rate to be as low as possible, but the location theory employed by multi-nationals and businesses has a lot of sway. They choose a location due to the proximity to its markets, raw materials, political stability and quality of labour force. Business is more concerned with absenteeism for instance [caused by strikes and ill-health] and access to skilled labour than the death rate,” said Coetzee, noting, however, that quality of life is becoming increasingly important for businesses, which could make the statistics of increasing importance.

Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Andrew Layman said crime and security weigh in heavily as a factor for investors.

“There is generally a negative perception of South Africa abroad. It is irrelevant if the perception is right or wrong, because this is a formed reality by these people. The release of the [2012/13] police statistics don’t dismiss this perception. When we entertain delegates, the question of crime is always asked and it can put South Africa out of the running for investment quite early on. Unfortunately, our country is ill-disciplined. Developed economies obey the laws of the country; that is what sets them apart,” said Layman.

The provincial police crime statistics released last week revealed that the province experienced a six percent increase in murders, with 3 629 incidents reported, and a massive spike in business and residential robbery, up 9,8% and 23,1% from the 2011/12 statistical data.

Manager at the Road Traffic Management Corporation, Ashref Ismail, said the road traffic-related deaths are far too high, attributing this in large measure to alcohol abuse, specifically over weekends.

“One of our biggest challenges is centralised sharing of information across the various traffic authorities. We are now moving into data-driven traffic enforcement, which should help reduce the death rate,” said Ismail.

Mary de Haas, who operates the KZN Violence Monitor, attributed the high death rate to South Africa’s violent society.

“People use violence to solve problems and have used violence as a means to an end for a long time. We have the highest crime rate outside of war-torn countries in Africa,” said De Haas.

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