South Africa slips in global prosperity index

South Africa is ranked as the 77th most prosperous country in the world, hampered by poor health and education levels and a low sense of safety and security.

This is according to the Legatum Institutes annual prosperity index, which ranks 142 countries across the globe in terms of income (GDP, economy, wealth) and well-being (quality of life, governance, sentiment).

SA’s position has continuously declined on the index over the past 5 years – starting at 67th in 2009, and dropping from a high of 66th position in 2010 to its lowest point in 2013.

The index uses thousands of datapoints from global data sources, tracking close to 90 variables as well as an average of over 1,500 interviews with people in each of the 142 countries covered.

According to the index, Norway tops the list as the most prosperous country in the world, with the strongest economy and highest level of social capital, according to Legatum.

Norway has maintained the top position since the index started in 2009.

Switzerland (2nd) has jumped up the rankings from 9th in 2012, while Canada (3rd) is the only country from the Americas in the top 10, climbing up from 6th in last year’s index.

The USA (11th), which missed a top 10 spot, rose slightly from 12th place in 2012, but was still dogged by a struggling economy, Legatum said.

“Over the past five years, the [USA] declined eleven places to 24th in the Economy sub-index, mainly due to decreases in gross domestic savings rates, a decline in high-tech exports, in five-year GDP per capita growth rate, confidence in the financial system and with satisfaction with access to food and shelter,” Legatum said.

Top 10 most prosperous countries in the world

Country 2011 2012 2013
Norway 1 1 1
Switzerland 8 9 2
Canada 6 6 3
Sweden 5 3 4
New Zealand 4 5 5
Denmark 2 2 6
Australia 3 4 7
Finland 7 7 8
Netherlands 9 8 9
Luxembourg 10

South Africa

The highest ranked countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region fill out most of the middle and bottom reaches of the index, with plenty of countries slipping in the rankings.

South Africa (77th) tracks Botswana (72nd) as the second-most prosperous country in the region.

South Africa 5 year trend
South Africa 5 year trend

Of the 32 new countries added to the index since 2009, only 5 have placed higher than South Africa, Legatum said, partly explaining the decline.

South Africa’s highest rank in the report’s sub-indices is when it comes to entrepreneurship and opportunity (41st) and governance (53rd); however, education (91st), health (105th) and safety and security (106th) drag on the country’s rank.

According to Legatum, over 82% of people interviewed believe government corruption in South Africa to be widespread, while just under three quarters (73.1%) do not feel safe in the country.

“Over the last five years, the country has moved down thirty three places to 82nd in the Personal Freedom sub-index, due to decreases in civil choice, and with less people declaring being satisfied with their freedom of choice,” Legatum said.

SA’s Social Capital sub-index has risen sixteen places to 65th since 2009, as a result of increasing perceptions of social support and volunteerism rates.

South Africa summary
South Africa summary

Top 10 most prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa

Country 2011 2012 2013
Botswana 67 70 72
South Africa 69 74 77
Namibia 80 83 93
Ghana 78 87 100
Senegal 92 118 104
Rwanda 98 111 105
Zambia 101 110 107
Niger 114 109
Mali 90 104 111
Burkina Faso 112 112

South Africa’s profile, and the full index details can be found on

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South Africa slips in global prosperity index