At the same time, South Africans have regained the confidence in themselves that they lost during the public sector strike last year.
The study was conducted by the Reputation Institute, and forms part of a global study conducted of the reputations of a wide range of countries around the world. The study is done annually in January.
Dr Dominik Heil, Managing Director of the Reputation Institute in South Africa, notes that year-on-year, South Africa’s reputation has steadily improved, from a score of 44.27 in January 2009, to 44.60 in January 2010, and 46.70 in January 2011 (score scale 0-100).
While some of the reputation capital from the World Cup has been sustained, the country has not been able to maintain the “high” achieved at the end of the tournament when South Africa saw its reputation score spike at 49.11 in August 2010.
Top driver of South Africa’s reputation amongst people of the G8 countries in 2011 is whether people are welcoming and friendly, while the perception of whether the country is a safe place is the second most important of the 16 drivers measured in 2011 .
South Africa achieves a weak score of 57.84 in the top driver, and its reputation score as a safe place is considered poor at 37.32. Perceptions of the effectiveness of the government only achieve a weak score of 41.6. The country scores the highest in – physical beauty (72.19) and enjoyment (71.21) – however these are only the 5th and 7th most important drivers of South Africa’s reputation among people in the G8 countries.
“This indicates that we can improve our reputation by working hard on safety and effective government. Recent gains that have been announced in safety and security are therefore really important and bode well for us in building a stronger reputation,” Dr Heil said.
Out of the 50 countries measured in 2011, South Africa continues to be associated with mid-scale reputation countries such as Puerto Rico, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and Egypt and this year was ranked 33rd in the world.
“One could say we are considered one of the more upstanding emerging markets achieving a reputation score comparable to these countries,” Dr Heil added.
The findings of the survey were also interesting in terms of South Africa’s involvement in the BRIC countries, Dr Heil noted.
“While it’s an advantage to be associated with Brazil and India, with their relatively solid reputations at 22nd and 27th places in the world rankings, it is questionable to lump ourselves with China at 43rd position and Russia at 45th position, both of which have major democratic and human rights deficits. While aligning South Africa to BRIC makes sense economically, it doesn’t in terms of reputation factors,” he said.
Several new countries were included in the 2011 survey including, for the first time, two additional countries in Africa – Egypt and Nigeria. The survey ranked Egypt at 37th position, however Nigeria, languishes at 47th position, ahead only of Pakistan, Iran and Iraq.
Amongst South Africans themselves, the country’s rating had shown some recovery from the serious dive it took during the 2010 public sector strike, when perceptions dropped from 67.78 points at the beginning of the year to 56.00 points post-World Cup. An additional study of South Africa was commissioned in August 2010 after the completion of the World Cup, so that perceptions before and after this event could be compared.
Dr Heil says this indicates that South Africans have a somewhat fickle view of their country which is easily swayed in a way that would not happen in a country with a really well established identity.
“When something negative happens, we allow it to affect our connection to our country in a negative way. This suggests that our sense of belonging to this nation is rather tenuous,” he said.
Canada is the best regarded country in the world in 2011, while Sweden, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand are in the next four positions. Norway, Denmark, Finland, Austria and Netherlands make up the rest of the top ten countries in the world.
In conducting the survey, the Reputation Institute asks respondents to measure four emotional factors – esteem, admiration, feeling and trust – on a scale of 1 to 7. These are used to determine the Country RepTrak™ score which can range from 0 to 100 points.
Respondents are then asked to rate the country reputation attributes on a scale of 1 to 7. These ratings determine which of the attributes most strongly influences the emotional factors.
Overall, the biggest driver of country reputation in 2011 is ‘Friendly and welcoming’, with ‘Safe place’ in second position. Least important is ‘Technological advancement’.