Tech helps SA jump in WEF rankings

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Johannesburg - South Africa has climbed seven places in the World Economic Forum (WEF) global competitiveness report owing to greater ICT adoption.

The WEF ‘Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016’ has assessed the competitiveness of 140 economies in terms of factors ranging from technology to the health of institutions.

“South Africa climbs seven places to reach 49th, reversing its four-year downward trend thanks largely to increased uptake of ICTs — especially higher Internet bandwidth — and improvements in innovation (up by five places to 38th), which establish the economy as the region’s most innovative,” said a WEF synopsis.

In terms of the ranking, South Africa is behind Costa Rica and ahead of Serbia.

Meanwhile, the top three most competitive economies in the world are Luxembourg, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

WEF’s comments on South Africa’s growing internet bandwidth come as the country is experiencing an internet and fibre broadband awakening.

According to research released by Arthur Goldstuck of World Wide Worx, the number of internet users in the country is forecast to hit a “conservative estimate” of 18.5 million during 2015 and surge to 24.5 million by 2020.

Meanwhile, local independent infrastructure providers such as Vumatel have targeted rolling fibre broadband to 100 000 households by 2016. This is after Vumatel first kicked off its operations in 2014.

Numerous other players, such as Fibrehoods and MTN, are also in expansive fibre-to-the-home installation drives in major metropolitan areas.

And South Africa’s biggest fixed line network, Telkom, announced earlier this month that it wants one million South Africans to have access to its fibre networks by 2018.

“We have set ourselves the objective of contributing to transforming the South African economy. South Africa is a developing democracy. We want to accelerate this development,” said Telkom group CEO Sipho Maseko at Southern African Telecommunications Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC) earlier this month.

Other metrics

The WEF also highlighted South Africa’s other metrics in terms of competitiveness.

According to the WEF, South Africa “hosts the continent’s most efficient financial market (12th) and benefits from a sound goods market (38th), which is driven by strong domestic competition (28th)”.

The country is also ranked as having an efficient transport infrastructure (29th), strong institutions (38th) and healthy property rights (24th).

However, the country faces challenges in terms of reducing corruption (76th) and dealing with the burden of government regulation (117th).

The WEF also said it needs to improve its security situation (102nd), and address its inefficient electricity supply (116th) and inflexible labour market (107th).

“Even more worrisome are health (128th) and the quality of education (120th), where higher secondary enrollment rates will not be enough to create the skills needed for a competitive economy,” said the WEF.

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