Global diversity index revealed - but we still want to go to the three least diverse countries at the bottom of the list

2019-05-16 05:30 - Selene Brophy
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These days there is an index for most things. And while it's amazing that South Africa ranks within the top ten most diverse countries in the world, it doesn't mean we should write off the others in our travel plans. 

The idea of sticking with what you know or can interpret according to predetermined perimeters would be so very boring all the time, right? Each and every country has its own history and culture, offering unique things from food to music and intriguing architecture. This Global diversity index, produced by Rickshaw Travel, certainly encapsulates how different each country is, making for a big, beautiful world. 

It specifically looks at the blend of the many diverse communities, beliefs and backgrounds that make up these countries. Ricshaw travel weighed up everything from religious beliefs and multi-lingual communities, to freedom for diversity.  See the full infographic

Coming out as the most culturally diverse country in the world is Benin, a small, mostly French-speaking country in West Africa. As the birthplace of the voodoo religion, a Pew Research report also ranked it 10th for religious diversity. 

READ: Quick Guide to Benin: Visa-free travel for South Africans

Being home to 56 different languages, (here in SA we grapple with only 11), and a Harvard University study which looked at the number of different ethnic groups in each country also placed it tops for the some 42 different African ethnic groups which call the country home.   

South Africa technically ranks third as nine of the countries were tied across the top three spots. SA in particular stood out for its diversity when it came to freedom of expression and religion. We scored particularly low when it came to diversity of culture and certain political aspects. 

Here is the full list of 10:

  • 1. Benin

  • 2. Belgium

  • 3. Suriname

  • 4. Brazil

  • 5. Mozambique

  • 6. Cote d’Ivoire

  • 7. Canada

  • 8. Switzerland

  • 9. South Africa

  • 10. Estonia

Lacking diversity

The survey results also shared some interesting insights at the bottom end of the scale. Many European countries ranked as some of the least ethnically diverse, including the UK, France and Italy. This is in contrast to a large portion of African countries topping the list for ethnic diversity, including Benin, Chad and Kenya. 

The data also shows that "the UAE is home to the highest immigrant population, followed by its nearby neighbour Qatar". The UAE’s immigrant population comprises a large majority of its total population –  83.7% to be exact, while Qatar isn’t far off at 73.8%. Middle Eastern countries have become a hotspot of opportunities in terms of careers and social life, according to the index. This is in comparison to the UK's  immigrant population of about 13.2%. Yet Brexit is still a reality. For the US the immigrant population is slightly larger at 14.3%.    

And then right at the bottom of the list are Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Algeria - with a score of 5, while Egypt is last with an overall score of 4 - compared to Benin's top rating of 15 index points.

The bottom four might not be diverse but they're still interesting and different in their own way. 


Turkey with its New Istanbul Airport connecting Europe and Asia, has old-world charm and a number of exceptional natural wonders.  

Did we mention it's also really cheap for South Africans. Conveniently connectivity is great with a direct Turkish Airlines flight from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Istanbul every day (duration is almost 11 hours). This country  really offers so much to the wanderluster looking for something a tad off the normal beat.  

From natural hot pools at Pamukkale to the Antalya, which rivals Italy’s Amalfi Coast, it is a destination that undoubtedly should be on any self-respecting world traveller's bucket list.    is so much to explore. 

SEE: (PICS) Istanbul neighbourhood guide: From bustling Besiktas to cool Kadiköy


Not your average tourism hot spot, the Kingdom of Saudi only recently began processing tourist visas, in place for special events, since April 2018. Seen as a deeply conservative and orthodox Islamic country, the removal of the religious police is just one of a few progressive moves attributed to the country’s influential Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud. 

Saudi’s transition to issue official tourist visas is part of its journey to modernisation as outlined in its Vision 2030 – essentially, a pivot from a finite, oil-dependent economy - something that Dubai is all too familiar with.  South Africa is now part of 16 countries that have access to the online application process for the event visas. From camels in the desert to Madain Saleh, Al Hijir Saudi Arabia's first World Heritage Site you're in for a unique ride.

READ: Unfettered Saudi Arabia: SA travel photographer shares his adventure to this formerly closed-off country


Like Saudi Arabia, it certainly isn't at the top of the Traveller's Choice Lists and the likes, but that does not mean you should shun this vast African country of contrasts - with a Mediterranean coastline and Sahara desert interior. South Africa's department of home affairs is in talks for a reciprocal visa with Algeria, but up until then you need to apply.

It's capital city Algiers, together with Constantine remain points of entry, while the country as a whole has "some of the most magnificent Roman sites in existence including Timgad and Djemila". It might not be your typically diverse destination but it is captivating. 

READ: Is SA's Green Mamba getting stronger? These are the countries on the DHA's hitlist 


How do you overlook Egypt, for lack of its diversity. You simply can't. Linking north-east Africa with the Middle East, many of us are intrigued by this millennia-old seat of ancient civilisations.

It's monuments like the Pyramids, the Nile and Cairo, a busy hub of activity, home to Ottoman landmarks and some of the best local cuisine you can imagine all draw you to it. 

South Africans need to apply for a visa for Egypt. And it seems the easiest way most people contact the embassy is via its Facebook page. Here you'll also find all info on the documents required.  

Yes it is still a rather conservative culture, which means covering up and being mindful of behaviour in certain parts - but others like the Red Sea that are frequented by tourists on a daily basis, are more relaxed.  

READ: What you need to know before heading to Egypt 

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