This is according to PWC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, which stated that the number of CEOs who believe that the global economy will improve in 2015 dropped from 44 per cent last year to 37 per cent this year.
The survey also noted that 17 per cent of CEOs believe global economic growth will decline, more than twice as many as last year, while 44 per cent expect economic conditions to remain steady.
In South Africa, only 29 per cent of CEOs anticipate positive economic growth in 2015, compared with 37 per cent globally, while 39 per cent are very confident of growth in their own companies over the next year.
“CEOs are facing a multitude of challenges and uncertainties in global markets, which is affecting global growth. Governments response to fiscal deficits, debt burdens and social instability are more concerning than a year ago,” said Suresh Kana, PwC senior partner for Africa.
(READ MORE: S.Africa's business confidence drops during holiday season)
The global survey results, based on interviews with more than 1,300 CEOs from 77 countries, were released at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.
A key trend in the survey was digital technology, with 90 per cent of South African business leaders viewing mobile technologies specifically as most important to their company’s growth.
“CEOs know they must be adaptable to disruptive changes in technology and in their markets,” said Kana.
"They need to put technology at the core of their business to create value for customers. Finding new ways of thinking and working in this new competitive landscape is critical to success."
Another important find in the survey is that global business leaders continue to look to advanced economies for growth opportunities, ranking the United States as the most important market for growth over the next 12 months.
This places it ahead of China for the first time in five years.
Doing business in the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) however continues to be challenging for CEOs due to complex structural and political issues.
(READ MORE: African CEOs remain optimistic about continent's growth)
A key concern among 93 per cent of South African CEOs is around the government’s fiscal deficit and debt burden, social instability and high unemployment.
Strategic thinking and adaptability were cited as capabilities that tomorrow’s CEOs must have in order to ensure that companies are able to adapt to ever-changing markets, and to deal with a range of business threats.
The survey also recommended that CEOs focus on what they’re good at for 2015 as well as building diverse yet aligned partnerships and transformation through digital.
“We believe that those CEOs who can develop the strategic focus and capabilities considered here will be best placed to win in the highly competitive landscape,” Kana added.