Though African economic performance remains underwhelming, there is much hope for the future.
Mauritius is the 2016-2017 most competitive economy in Sub-Saharan Africa according to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitiveness Index”. This means Mauritius edged out South Africa which places second in the regional standings and 47th in the global list. Mauritius is ranked 45th globally. The report assesses the competitiveness of 138 countries and provides insight into the drivers of their productivity and prosperity.
The report has been said to have come “out in the context of persistent slow growth and a near-term outlook that is fraught with renewed uncertainty fuelled by continued geopolitical turmoil, financial fragility, and sustained high debt levels in emerging markets”. The Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF, Klaus Schwab has said, “Declining openness in the global economy is harming competitiveness and making it harder for leaders to drive sustainable, inclusive growth.”
The Republic of Mauritius, an island 2,000 kilometres off the southeast coast of the African mainland is a major tourist destination with a 3rd rank in regional tourism and 56th globally. Its capital is Port Louis and the little country’s success has been buoyed by a vibrant tourism sector. It places 45th on the global list while South Africa comes in at 47th and Rwanda, 3rd in Africa but 52nd globally. Botswana ranks 64th globally while Namibia comes in as the 84th most competitive economy. Cote D’Ivoire places at 99, Gabon at 108, Ethiopia at 109 and Cape Verde at 110 to complete Africa’s top ten list. Meanwhile, Switzerland is the world’s most competitive economy followed by Singapore, the United States, Netherlands and Germany.
The African potential
Though African economic performance remains underwhelming, there is much hope for the future. In 2015, only three of the region’s economies ranked in the top half of the rankings. This year, only four countries are in the top half of the Global Competitiveness Index while 22 are in the bottom. 15 Sub- African countries are in the bottom 20 (no change from last year) showing just how low Sub-Saharan economies rank in the metrics. Speaking on the region’s competitiveness, Caroline Galvan, a Senior Manager at the World Economic Forum said, “In general, the region has made progress in efficiency-enhancing market reform, especially in goods market, but has much more to do improve its instructions, infrastructure, and health and education sectors, all areas in which reforms will take time to reap benefits.
With a coming youth bulge – by 2035, more people will be reaching working age in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world put together….” This means Africa’s boom could be lurking by the corner and even now, the greatest resource has proved to be manpower. If the continent taps into this latent power, there is a chance of dominating the charts in the near future.
With the continued slump in commodity prices, African economies have been strained and the recent upward trend in growth has been threatened. Galvan suggested that governments prioritise competitiveness-enhancing reforms to deal with the current downturn. Mauritius gains one place this year, bettering last year’s 46th position which was a fall from the 39th rank. It is said to have the sub-Saharan’s most efficient goods market, best infrastructure and most healthy and educated workforce. Galvan also says Mauritius’ competitiveness is only held back by the quality of higher education, rate of adoption of new technologies and its capacity to nurture innovation.