South Africa might be Africa’s biggest economy, and might be seen ‘superficially’ as having the best infrastructure in Africa, in reality however, its infrastructure is ‘pathetic’ and not good enough to help it compete with the rest of the developed and highly industrialised nations.
This was demonstrated at the recently released 2013/2014 World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report which shows that South Africa, while still enjoying a coveted second spot, has been overtaken by Mauritius as the most competitive country in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has slipped one ranking to 53rd globally.
South Africa is currently ranked 66th for infrastructure, in comparison to Mauritius at 50, which is well-developed by regional standards, reports say.
Commenting on the WEF report, one expert said the country of Nelson Mandela needed to focus on infrastructure to improve its competitive ranking.
DHL Express MD, Hennie Heymans, said efficient infrastructure was critical for ensuring the effective functioning of the economy, as it is an important factor in determining the location of economic activity and the kinds of activities, or sectors that can develop within a country.
“Developing and improving efficient infrastructure structures will assist the South African economy compete with global trading partners and increase productivity in manufacturing and service delivery,” he said.
“The current underdeveloped infrastructure in South Africa highlights the fact that untapped productive potential and resources are present in the region, all of which could be used towards making the country more competitive and attractive.
“South Africa is still the base for many companies wanting to do business in Africa but needs to recognise that this is under threat, and the competitors for this position – Nigeria, Kenya and Mauritius as examples – are close to home.”
Bearing in mind that South Africa is a country of too many laws, some of them ‘unnecessary and counter-productive’ and seen as hampering economic development and growth, Heymans urged South Africa to focus around creating a more favourable trade environment through reduced legislation.
This is crucial for success, he said, calling on Africa’s economic powerhouse to learn from the Mauritius example, which established a free trade zone a few years ago.
Photo: from Picturesque South Africa (Sean Fraser)