Egypt slips in new global talent competitiveness index

Last week, INSEAD released its annual Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI). Launched in 2014, the index ranks countries “based on their ability to grow, attract and retain talent” with the intention of providing an abundance of data to decision makers to inform them of the amount of talent they have at their disposal and to identify problem areas they can target to move forward and become more competitive on the world stage.

For 2020, INSEAD decided to make technology and artificial intelligence (AI) a key theme of the GTCI report.

Egypt ranked 97th out of 132 countries, down one spot from 96th in 2019; however, 2019’s report included 125 countries. In the cities section, Cairo ranked second from bottom at 154th out of 155 cities, ahead of the Pakistani city of Karachi and behind the Nigerian city of Lagos.

To provide some context, out of the 12 Arab countries surveyed, Egypt came out 9th, ahead of Morocco (100), Algeria (105), and Yemen (132). Out of the 32 African countries surveyed, Egypt ranked 10th, behind other lower-middle income countries in the continent such as Ghana (87) and Kenya (88). Gambia and Rwanda (both classified as low income countries) ranked ahead of Egypt in 85th and 93rd, respectively. Mauritius (49), South Africa (70), Botswana (71), and Namibia (73) are the other African countries (albeit classified as upper-middle income) who ranked ahead of Egypt.

What do these rankings mean and how did Egypt perform?

The countries and cities featured in the report are ranked according to a percentage score, which is the average of the percentages scored on the six pillars which make up the GTCI.

“Enable (Pillar 1) reflects the extent to which the regulatory, market, and business environments create a favourable climate for talent to develop and thrive,” in which Egypt ranks 105th.

The other three pillars indicate how much each country is able to Attract, Grow, and Retain Talent, in which Egypt ranked 116th, 104th, and 74th respectively, coming behind many other neighboring and lower-middle income countries.

The remaining pillars, namely Vocational and Technical Skills (VT Skills) and Global Knowledge Skills (GK Skills), aim to “describe and measure the quality of talent in a country that results from the […] policies, resources, and efforts” highlighted in the first four pillars. In the former, the country ranked 104th, while ranking 52nd in the latter, ahead of countries such as Romania (56), India (57), Turkey (63), Argentina (64) and Qatar (67).

What contributes to these rankings are their sub-indicators (calculated as percentage scores) which are the real meat of this report. These sub-indicators are drawn from a variety of sources. One heavily used source is the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey (EOS), an annual questionnaire sent to business leaders to quantify perceptions in the business communities of each country, specifically on issues pertaining to competitiveness. The final score is the average of their answers and is shown as a percentage. For example, looking at one of the sub-indicators for Attract, Egypt scored 35% in Brain Gain, ranking 92nd in the world. This means that 35% of Egypt’s business leaders agreed to a great extent that the country attracts highly-skilled and qualified people.

Other significant sources the report uses include the International Labour Organization (ILO), various United Nations (UN) institutions such as the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, and the Global Innovation Index.

Looking at the sub-indicators for GK Skills, Egypt has a relatively good abundance of High-level Skills, scoring 40% and ranking 43rd. Egypt also ranks 60th in the volume of human resources dedicated to research and development (R&D), and 44th in the availability of scientists and engineers.

Professor Nagla Rizk, founding director of the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D), a research center based at the American University in Cairo (AUC), told Business Forward that these numbers mean that Egypt has a good amount of local talent, yet perhaps lacks the environment to get the most out of them and keep them in the country, as the sub-indicators clearly show.

In Brain Retention, Egypt scored 31%, ranking 95th. Other relevant sub-indicators include Talent Impact (22%), Innovation Output (27%), High-value Exports (2.6%) and Scientific Journal Articles (4.5%).

Sub-indicators relevant to technology included ICT infrastructure (47%), Technology Utilization (46%) and Investment in Emerging Technologies (37%).

Those relevant to skills and the labor market showed Egypt to be performing quite poorly. Employability of job applicants was at 24% (128th); Ease of Finding Skilled Employees was at 42% (104th); and Relevance of Education System to the Economy was 20% (123rd).

The most significant contrasts Egypt had with closely ranked African countries included Brain Gain, where Kenya, Ghana, Gambia, Namibia, and Botswana all scored above 50%. Rwanda’s was the most significant with 74%, ranking 17th in the world. Egypt also fell behind these countries in Brain Retention, Employability, and Relevance of Education System to the Economy. In Ease of Finding Skilled Employees, Egypt only came ahead of Namibia, which scored 39%, ranking 109th.

However, Rizk insisted that these numbers be taken with a sense of nuance and to not be interpreted as wholly fair or accurate, acknowledging the differences between advanced, emerging, and developing economies and the unique dynamics of each. These measurements only use a single methodology on all countries to arrive at these numbers.

“It is important to go behind the numbers to see what these sub indicators are measuring, how they are measured, what is captured and what is not captured in the numbers […] and understand what has been asked,” she said. “Some of these indicators use national statistics as sources of data or international statistics that actually rely to a great extent on national statistics.”

Importantly, she added that what should be taken into account with these indices is what they may not capture, and what would need to be “complemented by stories on the ground.”

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