South Africa scores 'moderately positive' global reputation rating, study finds  

22nd May 2024

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


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Despite South Africa’s global infamy for corruption, rampant crime, poor service delivery, political instability and inequality, recent findings of a Global Reputation Study carried out by Brand South Africa (Brand SA) have shown that the overall perception others currently have of the country is “moderately positive”.

The country’s perception rating was scored on a six-point Likert scale, where a score of one or less was “extremely negative” and a score of between five and six was “extremely positive”. South Africa scored an overall average of 3.1, meaning that it very narrowly avoided falling into the “moderately negative” category.

The country was rated on 13 perception elements, each on a similar six-point Likert scale, with the results tallied to determine the total average.

In these categories, South Africa scored 2.8 (moderately negative) on governance and internal policies; 3.05 (moderately positive) on foreign affairs; 2.83 (moderately negative) on mitigation of global causes; 3.07 (moderately positive) on economy and business ecosystem; 3.27 (moderately positive) on products and services; 3.55 (moderately positive) on culture, heritage and art; 3.67 (moderately positive) on sports; 2.88 (moderately negative) on urban and/or rural environment; 3.87 (moderately positive) on natural assets and scenery; 3 (moderately positive) for education level; 3.15 (moderately positive) for society and values; 2.85 (moderately negative) for wellbeing and healthcare; and 2.32 (moderately negative) for safety and crime.

Presenting the findings as part of a virtual panel discussion on tourism opportunities in the Southern African Development Community region hosted by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), in collaboration with the Department of Tourism and Brand SA on May 22, Brand SA marketing and communications researcher Ebrahim Deen explained that more than 10 000 participants from 70 different global markets were surveyed during the 2023/24 review period.

“Looking at the tourism perspective, 48% of people surveyed said they would like to tour South Africa for the scenery, 37% for people and cultural values and 33% for climate. In terms of safety and security, 62% cited it as a negative, followed by the far-off nature of South Africa by about 19%,” he pointed out.

Deen noted, however, that there was a significant difference in perception between those who were familiar with the country and those who were not, with those who had visited South Africa before expressing significantly more positive perceptions than those who had not.

“People who experienced the country generally have a much more positive view of the country. Whereas people who aren't familiar with the country don't score it very highly. It scores much lower on virtually all the categories mentioned,” he explained.

He said the trick now was to try to align the perceptions of the familiar and the unfamiliar to ensure perceptions and reality were the same.

“When that happens, then that means that the brand is improving, and what is being advertised is what is being experienced,” Deen said.

He pointed out that the research showed a progressively smaller gap in between perception and reality across all categories over the last survey conducted in the 2022/23 review period.

“We see across all these different dimensions, there's a reduction. Even in an issue such as safety, the gap moved by 0.4 down. Even in the ones where we did well, such as sports or culture, the gap also narrowing. It’s only in the products category that the gap has increased, and this was by less than 0.1, which can be attributed to statistical bias and is within the error range,” Deen noted.

However, when asked about what makes South Africa stand out, the majority of respondents mentioned the wildlife, beautiful nature and safari. However, the country’s negative associations with apartheid, racism and crime remained key identifiers in the minds of foreigners.

In the last survey, 68% of the identifiers were labelled as positive, whereas in 2024, this has dropped by 11% to 57% positive.

In the 2022/23 survey, the top five associations foreigners had with South Africa were wildlife (11%), beauty (10%), Nelson Mandela (10%), apartheid (8%) and crime (8%).

In the most recent survey, by comparison, the top five associations foreigners had with South Africa were animals and wildlife (13%), apartheid (9%), Nelson Mandela (9%), poverty (8%) and crime (7%).

Another point of concern for Deen was that South Africa’s performance in terms of digital demand, the volume of online searches across dimensions such as tourism, investment, work, prominence, exports and study, were uniformly low compared to competing nations such as Thailand, Türkiye, Brazil or the UK.

“There's a lot more to be done to get us up there and make the digital demand more congruent with the perceptions of South Africa itself. And a key part in that is digital footprints,” Deen said.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online




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