How far SA has fallen: these are the biggest financial centres in the world

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The Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) for 2016 shows how Africa’s biggest financial centre – Johannesburg – crashed hard between 2015 and 2016, suffering the effects of poor policy, poor leadership and poor decisions.

The index is based on 24,495 financial centre assessments completed by 2,520 financial services professionals across the globe.

It also encompasses over 100 indices from organisations such as the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

According to the GFCI, London, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong are the four leading global financial centres. On a scale of 1,000 points, a lead of fewer than 20 points between the leaders indicates relative parity.

London leads with a score of 800, followed closely by New York with a score of 792.

However, as the data was compiled before the UK’s vote to exit the European Union, which caused big pain in UK markets, the Brexit was not factored into the assessment. The 2017 edition of the index will likely paint a different picture for the British capital.

Looking closer to home, in the Middle East and Africa rankings, Johannesburg comes in as the 6th biggest financial center in the region – but remains the largest in Africa with a score of 628, ahead of the only other ranked African country, Mauritius.

However, the strength of South Africa’s leading financial center has weakened significantly, dropping 18 places in the ranking from 33rd in 2015. This is the 4th biggest drop in the rankings.

Biggest financial centres in the world

# Financial Centre Country Score
1 London UK 800
2 New York City USA 792
3 Singapore Singapore 755
4 Hong Kong Hong Kong 753
5 Tokyo Japan 728
5 Zurich Switzerland 714
7 Washington D.C. USA 712
8 San Francisco USA 711
9 Boston USA 709
10 Toronto Canada 707
11 Chicago USA 706
12 Seoul S. Korea 705
13 Dubai UAE 699
14 Luxembourg Luxembourg 698
15 Geneva Switzerland 694
16 Shanghai China 693
17 Sydney Australia 692
18 Frankfurt Germany 689
19 Shenzhen China 688
20 Osaka Japan 687
51 Johannesburg South Africa 628

South Africa’s crash

The index covered data to March 2016, reflecting the economic turbulence of the first quarter of the year, which suffered the effects of president Jacob Zuma switching finance ministers on a whim at the end of 2015.

The decision led to South African markets plummeting, sending the rand into a spiral. The turbulence was further exacerbated by claims of state capture by the influential Gupta family, as well as external economic effects, such as slowing commodity prices and severe drough conditions.

While South Africa’s markets have slowly recovered from the first quarter’s ups and downs – currently enjoying fresh strength thanks to the global effects of the Brexit vote – the fundamental problems the country faced over the past year remain unchanged.

Financial research group Nomura has repeatedly pointed out that South African markets face trouble in the latter months of 2016, as a credit rating cut still looms over the country – while a shocking loss at the polls for the ruling party in the 2016 elections could push populist policies to the detriment of the economy.

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