South African petrol prices are about in the middle part of a graph, if you calculate a global average. There is fuel available that is a third of what we pay, and then there are other locations where you'd pay nearly double what we do locally.
Government taxation, exchange rates and transport costs are the main influences on fuel price and the diversity of those factors make direct comparisons challenging. Ironically some of the world's wealthiest nations, with scrupulously responsible governments and stable currencies, have the highest fuel prices.
Why? Countries such as Hong Kong, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Monaco have excellent public transport and high wages, so private transport is not a necessity - it's a luxury and taxed as such.
Fuel price vs affordability
According to Bloomberg's fuel price index, SA ranks 20th in terms of the most expensive petrol, 56th in terms of affordability of fuel and 60th for income spent on fuel.
With an average daily income of R237.13, it takes 5.98% of a day's wages to afford a litre of petrol in SA while the average driver uses uses 202.07 litres a year, which takes up 3.31% of a typical salary, reports Bloomberg.
High price of fuel locally
If you feel bad about R14.97 for your premium 95 unleaded in Gauteng, imagine what Icelandic motorists must feel paying R25.94 for the same fuel? Beyond developed nations, with mature economies the most expensive developing country fuel you can buy is in Uruguay, where unleaded petrol pumps for R21.27.
The world's cheapest petrol is Venezuelan, where it only costs only 12c per litre to fill your car but with the economy having collapsed and most Venezuelans attempting to flee the country of their birth - there is no joy in being able to drive anywhere. And currently, there's nothing to purchase at Venezuelan stores either as staggering inflation has drastically reduced commodities.
If you removed the four African countries from a global top ten list of cheapest refuelling destination, they are hardly placed you'd want to drive - Venezuela, Iran, Kuwait, Turkmenistan, Ecuador and Syria. Unbelievable but true, the war-ravaged Syrians only pay the equivalent of R5.40 per litre of fuel. Conflict countries have a peculiar correlation with affordable fuel.
In Afghanistan petrol costs a very reasonable R8.11 per litre but like Syria presents serious hazards to the average motorists with parts of the country still a warzone.
What about 1st world countries?
Certain countries which should have abundantly cheap fuel, purposely don't. Norway is the world's most sophisticated oil exporter, and even though it could easily match the localised petrol price of a rival oil-rich country such as Nigeria (R5.53/l), Norwegians are at ease paying R24.84 per litre for their petrol, in exchange for a tremendously high quality of life and virtually incorruptible government.
This is a curious correlation between fuel prices and quality of life; cheap fuel almost universally coincides with undesirable living conditions, whilst places with outrageously expensive petrol offer an immense quality of life. The five most expensive places to refuel with unleaded are Iceland, Hong Kong, Norway, Monaco and the Netherlands. Five of the very best places to visit or live.
The conclusion is simple, cheap fuel is seemingly detrimental to the quality of life. With South African petrol priced somewhere in the middle of a global average, we don't appear to over-paying in the greater theoretical scheme of things.