Survey finds SA’s image bad, self image even worse

By Branko Brkic 22 October 2009

South Africa is in dire need of an image boost, but it would do well to start by reassessing itself.

An international survey has found that foreigners view South African negatively, which is hardly surprising. The interesting part is that foreigners don’t view South Africa as negatively as South Africans themselves.

The New York-based Reputation Institution has conducted two studies assessing 33 countries around the world. In the first, it asked the world to assess the countries in the survey and in the second it asked the countries to asses themselves. In the first survey, SA come fifth last, interestingly a bit higher than Russia and China and in the company of Turkey and South Korea. In the second survey, SA came second last, beaten only by the amazingly self-loathing Japanese.

The survey found that the world perceived South Africa to have a “poor and vulnerable” reputation. But however “poor and vulnerable” this reputation might be, astoundingly foreigners still appear to view South Africa better than South African’s view the country themselves.

The survey asked a host of question like “ … is inventive” and “…is technologically advanced”. SA did not make the top five in these categories. But neither did it make the top five in the question “… is a beautiful country”, in which Canada, Australia, and Switzerland, Ireland, and Norway were the top five, suggesting snow and vast areas of flat nothingness are particularly valued by international respondents.

By comparing the two surveys, the Reputation Institution could measure the gap country self image and external perception, and here SA is in the middle of the table.

Interestingly, the countries who believe themselves to be much better than they are viewed internationally are China, Russia and India, three of the four countries which make up the Bric grouping of large, fast-developing countries. Clearly, future expectations form part of self image.

By Tim Cohen

Read more: Reputation Institute


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