South Africans trust businesses far more than the government

The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer showed that South Africans trust businesses and NGOs far more than the media and government and expect CEOs to hold divisive forces accountable.

The Edelman Trust Institute produces the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer. It surveyed 32,000 people across 28 countries for the report.

The barometer indicated South Africans perceived businesses and NGOs as the only trusted, competent, and ethical institutions. 

There is a 40-point difference between trust in business and trust in government. 62% of South Africans surveyed trust businesses, while 22% trust the government.

“Our data shows that South Africans are increasingly turning to businesses as trusted partners in addressing contentious societal issues,” said Edelman Africa CEO Karena Crerar. 

“This emphasizes the responsibility of businesses to leverage the power of their brands to create a shared identity, celebrating what brings us together and emphasizing our common interests to strengthen the social fabric.”

The media was also a polarising factor, as 46% believed the media is a reliable source of information, and 37% believed the media is a source of false or misleading information.

The survey also found that South Africans place an onus on CEOs to “hold divisive forces accountable”.

  • 77% of respondents believe CEOs must pull advertising money from platforms that spread misinformation.
  • 70% of South Africans believe companies could strengthen the social fabric by supporting institutions that build consensus.
  • 81% believe CEOs must defend facts and expose questionable science used to justify bad social policy.

CEOs speak out 

These results come in light of CEOs from some of South Africa’s biggest companies speaking on the state of the country, with many issuing serious warnings.

In his company’s latest results, MTN CEO Ralph Mupita warned that inaction from the government and business could turn South Africa into a failed nation-state. 

He called on business and government to work together to find and implement a solution to the country’s problems, including the electricity crisis, youth unemployment, crime, and corruption.

Nedbank CEO Mike Brown has also spoken on the country’s electricity crisis. He said economic growth and job creation suffer because the government failed to fix Eskom and stop load-shedding.

Standard Bank CEO Sim Tshablala also recently warned that, should South Africa experience a grid collapse, it would result in an extended blackout that would have disastrous consequences for the country.

While there is a low probability of a grid collapse, the CEO nevertheless told Business Day TV that his company is preparing for this scenario.

Tshabalala has also urged the government to ensure its relationship with Russia does not negatively impact South Africa’s financial institutions.

FirstRand CEO Alan Pullinger recently criticised the South African government for its relationship with Russia, warning that it could adversely affect South Africa’s biggest trade and economic relationships.