Cape Town - South Africa ranks 92nd out of 168 countries for its general quality of nationality, according to the latest Kochenov Quality of Nationality Index (QNI) by Henley & Partners.
For its travel freedom South Africa is ranked 82nd, for its settlement freedom 50th, and for the external value of its nationality 91st.
Last year South Africa was ranked 87th for its general QNI. The best ranking it had the past seven years was 79th in 2011.
Using a combination of quantifiable data, the QNI measures the internal value of a nationality. This refers to the quality of life and opportunities for personal growth within a country of origin.
It also measures the external value of a nationality, which identifies the diversity and quality of opportunities a nationality allows its citizens to pursue outside their country of origin.
France came out tops in the world for its quality of nationality, according to the QNI. The French nationality earned a score of 81.7% out of a possible 100%, fractionally ahead of Germany.
Germany was knocked off the top spot for the first time in seven years, with a score of 81.6%.
According to the report, France’s comparative advantage lies in its greater "settlement freedom", which it says is "attributable mainly to the country’s former colonial empire".
Iceland and Denmark came 3rd and 4th respectively on this year’s QNI. The UK dropped down a position to 13th place, again failing to secure a spot in the top 10, while the US increased its position by two ranks, claiming 27th place.
The top 10 is completed by the Netherlands (5th), Norway (6th), Sweden (7th), Finland (8th), Ireland and Switzerland (both 9th) and Austria (10th).
The relatively poor standing on the index of the US is primarily due to its low "settlement freedom" compared to European Union member states.
China climbed two places to rank 59th and Russia maintained its position in 63rd place.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has for the first time overtaken Israel on the QNI, now ranking 46th, with Israel in 48th position.
The Emirati nationality has climbed 13 positions over the past five years, making a significant leap when its holders received visa-free travel access to the Schengen area in 2016, according to the index report.
According to Professor Dr Dimitry Kochenov, a constitutional and citizenship law expert and co-creator of the index, the key premise of the QNI is that it is possible to compare the relative worth of nationalities as opposed to simply that of states.
“In today’s globalised world, the legal status of millions of nationals extends their opportunities and desires far beyond their countries of origin. The confines of the state are simply not the limit of their ambitions and expectations," said Kochenov.
He believes the QNI proves that it is not true that the most prosperous and economically important countries endow their citizens with the best nationalities.
While China, for instance, is an economic giant, its nationality has a very modest objective value, and while Liechtenstein has a micro-economy compared to that of China, its nationality is world-leading.
Kochenov explained that the value of European nationality overall and UK nationality in particular is in gradual decline, especially in relation to faster-growing economies such as China, the UAE, and the US, whose nationalities continue to increase in value each year.
However, Europe still remains the undisputed global leader in terms of nationality quality, and emerging economies would need an entire century of unchecked success to unseat it from this position, according to Kochenov.
Dr Christian H. Kälin, co-creator of the QNI and group chair of Henley & Partners, said it is clear that nationalities have a direct impact on people's opportunities and freedom to travel, do business and live longer, healthier, and more rewarding lives.
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