The 5 biggest concerns for business in South Africa right now

Unemployment, fiscal crises and the failure of a nation’s government to provide stability are the top risks facing businesses globally – while cyber risks are rising in importance, according to new data from a survey by the World Economic Forum.

The survey data was published in conjunction with Zurich Insurance Group and Marsh & McLennan Companies and was drawn from the WEF’s proprietary Executive Opinion Survey, which provides a window into global business conditions, and which — among many other things — asks respondents to identify the five biggest risks to doing business in their respective countries.

The survey was conducted between February and June, and the question on risks to doing business was answered by 12,411 executives across 136 countries including South Africa.

Executives’ responses identified economic, geopolitical, social and technological risks as likely to carry the greatest dangers for their businesses over the next 10 years.

“While economic growth and technological developments create new opportunities for business and countries, geopolitical risks and events have led to uncertainties which raise questions about how to manage resilience in uncertain times,” said John Scott, chief risk officer, commercial insurance, Zurich.

“Looking at the survey results, it appears that in the medium-term, business leaders are focusing on social and economic risks, but shouldn’t underestimate the potential impact of environmental and technological risks as well.”

“While the fragility of the global economic recovery remains the chief business concern, executives are increasingly worried about the potential for cyber and other technology-related risks to threaten their ability to operate. Business leaders in many of world’s largest economies now rank cyber as their top risk,” said John Drzik at Marsh & McLennan Companies.

Risk perception by regions

Executives in most regions highlighted unemployment or ‘underemployment’ and ‘fiscal crises’ as the two greatest risks, although those in North America and East Asia and Pacific regions were most concerned by cyber attacks and asset bubbles.

Following an increase in geopolitical risk, sometimes fueled by protectionist policies, business leaders in Europe, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa were worried about the potential failure of national governance.

In Europe, business leaders added ‘failure of financial mechanisms or institutions,’ to the list of pressing risks. In South Asia, rapid growth in urban centers led executives in that region to highlight ‘failure of urban planning’ and ‘failure of critical infrastructure’ as among the key potential threats to their businesses.

Risks associated with the ‘failure of climate change adaptation’ elicited very little concern among those deemed likely to pose the gravest threats over the next 10 years – out of the 20 economies we release today, only Canadian executives put climate change in their top risks list, albeit ranking it lower than some other risks.

The threat of potential terrorist attacks worried executives in North America and the Middle East and Northern Africa, but failed to make it to the top five risks ranking among businesses in the other regions.

In South Africa, the top concern was unemployment or underemployment. Stats published earlier this year revealed unemployment to be at its worst level in more than a decade with  almost 10 million South Africans looking for a job.

Read: South Africa’s unemployment stats are way scarier than you think: expert

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The 5 biggest concerns for business in South Africa right now