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Only Bosnia and Peru match SA for fear of state collapse among executives, survey shows

The parliament building in Cape Town on fire, in January 2022. 
(Photo by Xabiso Mkhabela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The parliament building in Cape Town on fire, in January 2022.
(Photo by Xabiso Mkhabela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

  • In only two other countries are executives as worried about state collapse as in South Africa, a new report from the World Economic Forum shows.
  • Those are Bosnia and Herzegovina, which suffered a genocidal war in the 1990s, and Peru, where six recent presidents have been jailed, ousted, or committed suicide amid corruption allegations.
  • South African business leaders are also, separately, worried about the collapse of service and public infrastructure.
  • In many other countries, the top two-year-horizon worries for executives are inflation, debt, or the rising cost of living. 
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In 2021, South African business leaders were worried about the economy. Over the two years to come, they told a global survey, their top concerns were prolonged economic stagnation, and crises in employment and livelihoods.

Now they are worried the state could implode.

Given a choice of 35 possible risks to choose from, the majority of South African executives picked “state collapse”, data attached to the Global Risks Report 2023 released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday shows.

In only two other countries surveyed was that the top concern, and in one of them slightly less so.

Executives in Bosnia and Herzegovina – where a genocidal war was waged in the 1990s – also said they were worried about the chance of state collapse over the next two years, but an equal number cited severe commodity supply crises as their top concern.

Only in Peru was the prospect of state collapse the clear top worry without such complications. In the last three decades, Peru has seen corruption allegations lead to the imprisonment, arrest, ousting, or in one case suicide, of six different presidents.

For many other countries polled for the WEF, executives said they were most worried about debt crises, inflation, and other economic issues, or about the cost-of-living crisis experienced in many parts of the world.

In Zimbabwe, for instance, inflation and the cost of living featured as the biggest and second biggest concerns respectively. 

Tunisian respondents ranked state collapse as their second biggest worry, behind debt, and the same was true for El Salvador. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, state collapse also ranked second, behind digital inequality and a lack of digital services, and in Botswana it ranked second behind the cost of living.

Everywhere else, including countries such as Yemen, it was farther down the list if it featured at all.

The South African executives among the more than 12,000 respondents to the global survey, conducted between April and September, were split on what other risks the country faces. An equal number named debt, cost of living, and the collapse of services and public infrastructure, which all ranked joint second.

The crises in employment and livelihoods ranked fifth.

Options the South African executives did not choose as their top short-term fears included natural disasters, infectious diseases, and disillusioned youth.



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