Purpose – For competitive intelligence (CI) to evolve into a successful business discipline in a company, a culture of competitiveness should prevail. The extent to which CI is practiced in South Africa and the CI culture that exists in South Africa have remained a mystery until the late 1990s. It is the aim of this paper to assess the development of the CI culture since the late 1990s in South Africa and to make recommendations to enhance this culture. Design/methodology/approach – For the empirical evidence, the results of two previous research projects were used. Questionnaires were used in these projects. The questions covered all areas of the intelligence cycle: planning and focus, collection, analysis, communication, process and structure, awareness and culture and attitudes towards CI. Data of the sample population to perform a sample selection was gathered from three sources, namely Reed Inc., the Kompass Southern African and the membership lists of the respective Export Councils. In both the projects, the respondents had to answer the questions on a five-point Likert scale, where 1 equals either never or disagree and 5 equals always or strongly agree. Findings – The results of observations and research projects show a sustained level of awareness of CI and a CI culture within South African companies since 1999. However, research into the CI practices of South African companies (both descriptive and empirical) and specifically into the CI practices of South African exporters has shown certain areas in which local companies lag behind other countries. In particular, in terms of the extent and depth of education, training and consulting services, South Africa is far behind most developed countries. With better training and education opportunities available, in particular in terms of strategic and competitive analysis and the management of CI, these weak areas of the discipline are sure to improve with time. Research limitations/implications – The research was built around the six key areas that, collectively, from the intelligence model as identified by Calof and Breakspear in 1999, i.e. planning and focus, collection, analysis, communication, process and structure, and organisational awareness and culture. Some of the key findings were that South African companies showed a general lack of appropriate processes and structures for CI; that there was little evidence that systems in companies assist the CI activities; that few companies could claim that CI was embedded in the whole company; little information sharing took place and people in the company in general did not know the focus of the intelligence activity. Originality/value – The paper provides recommendations on ways to enhance and foster a competitive or CI culture in South Africa. Various ways to enhance a competitive or CI culture in countries and companies are proposed including CI awareness and training sessions for industry, company managers recognising the value of CI as a tool to enhance competitiveness and appropriate CI related training programmes.