Is South Africa a good country?

The latest Good Country Index shows which countries are the biggest contributors to global society – adding their support to the fight against problems like climate change, pandemics, migration, human trafficking, terrorism and economic chaos.

The Good Country Index is based on the premise that most of the world’s problems are really just symptoms of a bigger, underlying problem: that we haven’t yet worked out how to organise ourselves as a single species inhabiting a single planet.

It analysis how leaders run their countries, and offers insight to help them understand they’re not just responsible for their own citizens, but for every man, woman, child and animal on the planet.

“The Index aims to measure what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away, relative to its size,” the Good Country said.

The group used a wide range of data from the UN and other international organisations to give each country a balance-sheet  showing whether it’s a net creditor to mankind, a burden on the planet, or something in between.

The Index does not measure local conditions, but focuses on a country’s contribution to global society.

Of the 163 countries assessed, South Africa ranked 47th, performing well in three main categories, middling in two, and badly in two. These are outlines below:


International Peace and Security – 2nd

South Africa ranked 2nd in the world for its contributions to global peace and security. Relative to its size, South Africa sends out a large number of troops on peace keeping missions across the world, and gives a lot of money to the UN to fund such missions.

There is a low number of deaths from peace-keeping activities South Africa leads, and the country has an above average score on the cyber security front.

World Order – 25th 

When it comes to world order, South Africa is a great global contributor, relative to its size. It is highly charitable, hosts a large number of refugees, while producing very few refugees itself, and makes sure to sign a significant number of UN treaties that aim to serve global society.

Science and Technology – 25th 

South Africa’s contributions to global science and technology is positive across all indicators. Relative to its size, the country has higher than average international students, exports of scientific journals and publications, and also has citations in a high number of international journals. The country also has a high number of Nobel Prize laureates and patents.

Health and Wellbeing – 56th

South Africa’s contributions to global health and wellness is middling, as the country tends to be a net receiver of aid. However, while food aid and humanitarian donations are low, coming from South Africa, the country is completely compliant with global health regulations, and makes donations to the World Health Organisation.

Culture – 65th

South Africa’s contributions to global culture is middling, with relatively free movement (due to fewer visa restrictions than most countries) and free-flow of information (through a free press) somewhat drawn back by low numbers of creative exports (in terms of skills and services and creative people).

Prosperity and Equality – 114th

South Africa performs relatively poorly in this category due to low contributions to developmental aid and relatively closed trading (reflecting tighter economic conditions within South Africa itself). The country scores points for relatively high levels of foreign direct investment flowing out of the country.

Planet and Climate – 150th

Climate and environmental contributions are the lowest score for South Africa, largely due to its contributions to harmful CO2 emissions, consumption of ozone-depleting substances, and export of hazardous pesticides.


The table below outlines the top and bottom 10 countries on the Good Countries Index

# Country
1 Netherlands
2 Switzerland
3 Denmark
4 Finland
5 Germany
6 Sweden
7 Ireland
8 United Kingdom
9 Austria
10 Norway
47 South Africa
154 Equatorial Guinea
155 Syria
156 Angola
157 Mali
158 Mauritania
159 Chad
160 Yemen
161 Iraq
162 Libya
163 Afghanistan

Read: Why South Africa’s troubles lie beyond the ANC’s December conference

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