South Africans are optimistic about their individual futures, with 64% viewing themselves as optimists – a full 8% above the global average.

Commissioned by Expo 2020 Dubai, and conducted by YouGov, the Global Optimism Outlook Survey tracked people’s priorities for the future, looking at sustainability, economic growth, technology, travel, and more.

The collective outcome for the three African markets surveyed – South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya – was also 64%, a significantly higher average of optimism than any other region (except South America), and well above the 50% (or less) recorded for North America and Europe.

More than 20 000 people across 23 countries were surveyed. Despite the breadth of diversity, it appears the majority of the world is closely aligned when it comes to the key issues facing the planet’s future — viewing it as a higher priority than anything personal, economic, or technology-related.

When it came to unlocking global opportunity and driving optimism, the themes of collaboration, knowledge sharing and access to education were consistently present.

The findings show an equal majority (94%) of South Africans believe that collaboration, knowledge sharing and greater communication between individuals and communities can help shape a better future.

When asked how economic development is being driven in the country, 59% said through access to education, followed by access to knowledge (49%).

When questioned about what could unlock opportunity in the future, those surveyed said that knowledge gathering, learning and access to education (75%), access to resources (74%), and collaboration across national borders and cultures (66%) would be most effective.

The survey also found significant optimism among South Africans about sustainability – two-thirds are optimistic about mankind’s ability to tackle climate change, a rate that stands above the global average (58%).

Reem Al Hashimy, UAE minister of state for international co-operation and director-general of Expo 2020 Dubai, says: “In just over a year, Dubai and the UAE will be bringing the world together for the World Expo, in a spirit of collaboration, and creating an open global dialogue that allows us to look towards the future with renewed optimism.

“We developed the Global Optimism Outlook Survey to help us understand what the citizens of the world believe will shape a better future. People from around the world have spoken, and we are listening.

“The results show that we are more connected than we may believe. That dialogue, communication and collaboration are essential, and that we are united in our desire to create a happier, more inclusive, cleaner planet.”

On a global level, the results highlight nine in 10 respondents believe that individuals and communities can shape the future through greater knowledge-sharing, communication, and collaboration.

Knowledge-sharing, learning, and greater access to education also stood out as dominant themes across all regions: Middle East (55%), Western and Eastern Europe (61%), Asia (61%), North America (63%), South America (68%), and Africa (72%).

Overall, South America (74%) is the most optimistic region, followed by Africa (64%), the Middle East (60%), Asia (57%), North America (50%) and West/East Europe (50%).