Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Survey sees South Africa's Perceptions Overwhelmingly Positive

SA WILL attend its first meeting as a member of the Bric bloc in China next month buoyed by the results of an international poll that show the country is regarded as having a positive influence in global politics.

Positive international perceptions of SA "rose significantly" from 35% to 42%, a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) poll released yesterday showed.

The successful hosting of last year’s Soccer World Cup and the political role played by SA on the African continent are factors that boosted SA’s image abroad as an influential, emerging economy.

While the government has been criticised at home for not being outspoken enough on the crisis in Libya or decisive in finding a solution to the political impasse in Côte d’Ivoire, foreigners are upbeat about SA’s influence on the international stage.

The poll was conducted by US- based firm GlobeScan on behalf of the BBC. It solicited the views of 28619 people in 27 countries between December last year and February 4 .

Brazil received the most positive response, with favourable perceptions of its influence increasing from 40% to 49% over the previous year’s poll. SA was the second-best performer in terms of an increase in its ranking.

The poll found that, of the 27 countries polled on SA, 17 had positive views, two were negative and eight were divided.

There was a seven-point increase in positive ratings of SA, with 42% of all respondents reporting favourable perceptions of the country’s influence in the world.

Doug Miller, chairman of GlobeScan, said the poll showed the "growing credibility of middle powers", especially of Brazil and SA, in driving change in multilateral institutions.

"This is the story of the year," Mr Miller said.

Local analysts agreed SA was well placed to exert influence in international forums.

Catherine Grant, head of economic policy at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said the poll "reaffirms SA’s position as an important emerging-market player that can no longer be ignored".

Ms Grant said the results would also boost President Jacob Zuma ’s confidence when he meets his counterparts of the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) bloc next month.

Martyn Davies, CE of emerging market consultancy Frontier Advisory, yesterday described the poll as "good news" for SA.

"We may not be a great power, but we are an increasingly confident emerging power," Mr Davies said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said last week that it was "scandalous" that countries like SA were left out as key decision-makers in multilateral institutions.

SA is a campaigner to reform the United Nations (UN) Security Council, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is meeting her counterparts from Brazil and India in Delhi today for talks on UN reform.

They are discussing the intensification of the efforts to expand the permanent and nonpermanent membership of the UN Security Council.

SA and Nigeria have ambitions of occupying permanent seats on an expanded Security Council.

The GlobeScan survey found that citizens of African countries had the most positive sentiment towards SA. Positive views were the highest in Kenya, at 73%, followed by Nigeria (67%) and Ghana (57%).

SA has spent millions of rand in post-conflict reconstruction efforts and peacekeeping in Africa in recent years. Its private sector has been one of the leading sources of foreign direct investment on the continent.

Surprisingly, citizens of fellow Bric members China and Russia held negative views of SA, the poll showed — while more Canadians and Americans were positive about the country than before.

The countries least favourable towards SA were Japan, Pakistan and Russia.

Ratings among Canadians were 45% positive, up by nine percentage points, and US citizens were 50% positive about the role SA played on the international stage — a rise of 13 percentage points.

Source: Business Day