Is South Africa a fragile State?

 ·11 Jul 2014
Civil war

The latest index compiled by The Fund for Peace and published by Foreign Policy magazine indicates which countries are teetering on the brink of collapse – and where South Africa fits into the bigger picture.

Foreign Policy noted that states rarely change fundamentally year to year. Nine of the index’s 10 most fragile states in 2013 held the same positions in 2012 index, it said.

The 2013 ranking saw hopes for change in Libya effectively nullified, while South Sudan – “the world’s newest country” – descended into civil war.

On the other side of the coin, however, the magazine noted a great improvement in stability in Iran, while China and Turkey also weathered through social turbulence.

The index is compiled by looking at data during the course of 2013 across 12 political, economic, and social indicators, rated out of 10 (where 10 indicates poor performance):

Looking at the most fragile states in the world, the index is dominated by African nations.

Stability index map

Stability index map (click to enlarge)

Six of the top ten nations – all in the top spots – are from the continent, with Foreign Policy pegging Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s administration as an abysmal human rights low-light.

South Africa is ranked 115th in the index – out of 178 nations measured, this places the country in the middle-reaches of global stability, but near the top as one of the most stable nations on the continent.

South Africa’s strongest indicator is the lack of foreign intervention taking place in the country (3.2), while it’s protection of human rights (4.3) and levels of migration (4.6) also scored relatively well.

However, South Africa scored poorly for disparities in development among different population groups within the country (7.7) and other concerns related to the population, such as food scarcity and population growth (7.4).

South Africa – 115th

Indicator Score
External intervention 3.2
Human rights and rule of law 4.3
Human flight and brain drain 4.6
Security apparatus 4.9
Legitimacy of the state 5.0
Factionalised elites 5.6
Poverty and economic decline 5.8
Group grievance 5.8
Public services 6.1
Refugees and internally displaced persons 6.2
Demographic pressures 7.4
Uneven development 7.7

Botswana (121st) is ranked as a more stable country than South Africa, while Mauritius (145th) is the most stable nation on the African continent.

15 most fragile states

Rank Country Index score
1 South Sudan 112.9
2 Somalia 112.6
3 Central African Republic 110.6
4 Democratic Republic of Congo 110.2
5 Sudan 110.1
6 Chad 108.7
7 Afghanistan 106.5
8 Yemen 105.4
9 Haiti 104.3
10 Pakistan 103.0
11 Zimbabwe 102.8
12 Guinea 102.7
13 Iraq 102.2
14 Cote d’Ivoire 101.7
15 Syria 101.6

In terms of the most stable countries in the world, the list is dominated by European nations, led by Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

The UK was ranked 161st overall (18th most stable), while the USA was ranked two places lower on the index (159th, or 20th most stable).

“The political brinkmanship that has defined Washington throughout Barack Obama’s administration came to a head during the government shutdown in October 2013,” Foreign Policy said.

“As a result, the United States had its worst score on the Factionalized Elites indicator in the nine years that the country has been included in the index.”

The magazine also noted that the release of classified NSA documents by Edward Snowden, as well as the April 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon, also contributed to the country’s comparative decline.

15 most stable countries

Rank Country Index score
1 Finland 18.7
2 Sweden 21.4
3 Denmark 22.8
4 Norway 23.0
5 Switzerland 23.3
6 New Zealand 24.1
7 Luxembourg 24.6
8 Iceland 25.9
9 Ireland 26.1
10 Australia 26.3
11 Canada 27.4
12 Austria 28.5
13 Netherlands 28.6
14 Germany 30.6
15 Belgium 32.0

For the full rankings, see Foreign Policy magazine’s feature.

[Image credit: Kozachenko Oleksandr /]

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