Picture: Phando Jikelo
Picture: Phando Jikelo

South Africa outperformed most of its regional peers on the global human capital index in building capacity through educational attainment, according to the World Economic Forum Global Human Capital Report (WEF GHCR) 2017 released yesterday.

Ranked 87th out of 130 countries, sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest economy developed 58% of its workforce and “there are bright spots too when it comes to the development of future skills - for example, ranking 19th for staff training”, the report stated.

However, the country’s “Achilles heel” was in the deployment of skills throughout the workforce where it ranked 109. The WEF GHCR cited chronic unemployment, under-employment and a large informal sector as the main reasons for this.

Picture: Phando Jikelo

The WEF GHCR stated: “South Africa has the continent’s highest share of its workforce in high-skilled occupations and is well regarded for its staff training, but underperforms when it comes to school quality”.

SA lagging

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa - the lowest-ranked region in the index - that outperformed South Africa were Rwanda (71), Ghana (72), Cameroon (73) and Mauritius (74). These countries had developed more than 60% of their human capital, according to the report.

Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy, was ranked at 114. The region’s most populous country had a relatively large pool of tertiary-educated workers, especially among its older generations, and comparatively strong staff training, according to the report.

However, it simultaneously recorded low primary and secondary education attainment across all age groups and one of the lowest current primary school enrolment rates globally, pointing to excessively uneven human capital outcomes and the untapped opportunities of pursuing a more inclusive human capital development approach.

Climbing out of a recession, “Nigeria still has plenty of work ahead as it seeks to build a more resilient, future-proof workforce.“Relatively speaking, it does better in ensuring the talents at its disposal are deployed effectively within the economy,” stated the report.

Ethiopia was the lowest-ranked high-population country in the region at 127, fourth from the bottom on the index overall - ahead only of Senegal, Mauritania and Yemen. Kenya, which ranked 78, did relatively well in terms of deployment. However, worryingly for a country with aspirations to become the tech hub of Africa, it performed poorly in development of future skills and knowledge.

Southern African countries - Botswana (91), Zambia (80) and Namibia (99) - were found to be particularly successful in building the future human capital potential of their youngest generations, outperforming the rest of the region on the development sub-index.

The WEF GHCR said the global economy was at risk of a talent crisis due to mismatches between investment in education systems and efforts to deploy and develop during people’s working lives.

Regional variation

The report stated that, between them, the 130 countries featured in this year’s edition made up 93% of the world’s population and contributed more than 95% of the global gross domestic product.

On average, 62% of the world’s talent is fully developed. The report states that while there was broad regional variation, “only 25 nations have tapped 70% of their available human capital”.

At a regional level, the human capital development gap is smallest in North America and Western Europe, and largest in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The index shows that all countries can do more to nurture and fully develop their human capital.

Across the index, there are only 25 nations that have tapped 70% of their people’s human capital or more.

In addition to these 25 countries, 50 countries score between 60% and 70%. A further 41 countries score between 50% and 60%, while 14 countries remain below 50percent, meaning these nations are currently leveraging less than half of their human capital.