emerging sustainability index (ESI)


Asia continues to dominate the ESI with four of the five top five ranked countries represented by China, Korea, Malaysia and India.  Emerging European countries—Poland, Czech Republic, Poland and Estonia—and Qatar and UAE, each with strong fundamentals and higher developed investment environments for transnational education, also scored in the top 10.  Turkey has surpassed Russia in the leading 15 countries, the latter facing greater operational and economic challenges to its investment climate but still scoring within the top quartile.  Countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Morocco remain close to the bottom of our scale, lagging across a range of human capital and investment markers.

From an human capital investment perspective, Asia’s combination of large labor markets, sustained economic growth, high educational outcomes and attractive FDI trends continues to provide a superior environment for start-ups, direct investment and M&A activity when compared to the regions of Latin America and Africa.  There are exceptions–Brazil and Chile score in the middle of our rankings and Mexico moved up to 14–but by and large the latter regions show increasing challenges for education and growth.

Figure 1 provides a summary of rankings and scoring for the 2020 ESI (previously the “Global Edunomix Index”) with regional breakouts to follow.



The Americas were led by Mexico (14) and Argentina (15), and further down the list, Brazil (24) and Chile (25). The contrast between Mexico and Brazil continues to be instructive: each with large populations but a different set of education profiles and increasingly divergent economic paths in light of Brazil’s deepening recession (both pre-Covid19). Mexico has emerged as a relatively strong investment case within the Americas, surpassing Argentina and gaining ground from our 2018 rankings. Peru (33) and Colombia (34) rank in the middle of the ESI (Colombia improved 10 spots since 2018). On a global basis, the Americas are mixed, offering highly divergent investment prospects and losing more ground to Asia.

Figure 2 provides a summary of rankings and scoring for the Americas.


Asia led the GEI rankings from China (1), Korea (2), Malaysia(3), India(5)–with no change from 2018–while Vietnam (10) increased its position ahead of Thailand (11) and Indonesia(130. On the other side of Asian barbell,  the Philippines lost a few spots (21) as did Sri Lanka (37), Pakistan (42) and Bangladesh (43). It should be noted that these four countries have one thing in common: youthful populations and increasing pressure on employment, but also an opportunity to move ahead if productivity and education intensity rises.  This hasn’t happened.

Figure 3 provides a summary of rankings and scoring for Asia.

Africa, Europe and Middle East (EMEAF)

Africa.  Despite South Africa (35) scoring the highest in the ESI across the continent, African countries scored at the lowest levels when measured by economic inclusion and education attainment measures and thus were largely at the bottom of the rankings. Notably countries this includes countries such as Nigeria (46), Ghana (47) and Kenya (48), a fact that becomes urgent considering that Nigeria and Kenya have among the highest percentage of youths under-14 years of age in their populations. As in past years, investors in Africa will not be surprised by these results: the continent, despite FDI and a measure of excitement around private education and training, nevertheless shows poor performance in productivity, insufficient education access, low start-up activity, and operating environments plagued by governance issues has marred sustainable, value-added growth opportunities across the continent. Northern Africa, represented by Egypt (38), scored higher than every African counterparts apart from South Africa, but still remains in the bottom quartile of the rankings. However both countries have more developed educational systems and the potential for gains in the years ahead.

Emerging Europe.  In many respects Emerging Europe is a different comparative class to other countries in the ESI despite their inclusion as Emerging Market representatives. Several countries have small populations, strong educational achievement, an advanced EU-formulated operating environment, and highly productive economies. Yet rankings differ widely. Notably: Turkey(12) has advanced four spots in the GES;  Poland (6), Czech Republic (7) and Estonia(8) held steady.  Russia (16) fell behind Turkey. Southern European countries such as Greece (19) fell behind Hungary (17).  Bulgaria (28) lost several spots in the rankings.

Middle East.  Gulf countries UAE (4) and Qatar (9) remain leaders in education investment and score relatively well across all categories on a global basis, not to mention their own region.  Other Middle East countries have not fared as well, particularly Bahrain (26), down from 2018; Jordan (36) and Oman (39) continue to face more acute economic challenges and generally lagged in terms of educational outcomes and productivity.

Figure 4 provides a summary of rankings and scoring for the clustered regions of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEAF).

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