Experts turn back on SA
Source : FinNews 24 - October 6, 2006 By: Garth Theunissen
Johannesburg - Most of South Africa's experts in exile aren't prepared to return home, a study has shown. A study by Research Surveys into what it calls "The 'Scatterlings' of (South) Africa" shows that only around one-third of those who have left SA "could realistically be expected to entertain the idea of returning".
The willingness to return also depends a lot on the country that expatriates are living in. Research Surveys says almost 50% of those living in Britain would consider returning, followed by 40% in Asia, the Middle East and other European countries. Of those living in North America, only 20% indicate that they would consider returning.
Most distressing though is the revelation that a mere 9% of South Africans who have left for Australia and New Zealand say they'd consider returning to the land of their birth. The key word here is "consider". The likelihood of a family uprooting itself for a second time to move to a country with a lower level of political stability is highly unlikely. In fact, Research Surveys suggests that trying to lure South Africans back home from Australia is simply a lost cause. "Australia is SA's biggest threat. Once a South African moves to that country his/her availability to return drops dramatically. Australia competes with SA in terms of quality of life, the weather and the outdoor environment. "It beats SA hands down when it comes to lack of crime and feelings of safety. The return on investment in terms of trying to convince South Africans in Australia to return is therefore too low to contemplate."
Repatriate some skill
Nonetheless, AfriForum's (a division of Solidarity) Come Home Campaign has managed to repatriate about 1 200 skilled South Africans, most of them qualified individuals working in the information technology, medical, engineering and teaching professions. Though Alana Bailey, manager of the AfriForum campaign, says the majority are English-speaking whites, with the next biggest group white Afrikaners, an increasing number of returnees are black, coloured and Indian professionals. That proves it isn't just white skills that are being lured from SA's shores. Thus far, all 1 200 returnees have been placed in jobs, with the majority having returned from Britain, followed by Canada, the United States, Australia and the Netherlands. "Our strategy is only to bring back people who we can place in jobs," says Bailey. Sadly, when compared to the almost 1 Million that have left (see story above), a mere 1 200 returnees fades into insignificance.
Focus on expats in UK
Another organisation trying to persuade South Africans to return is the Homecoming Revolution, now run by MD Martine Schaffer. In contrast to Bailey, Schaffer says it's very difficult to arrive at a reliable estimate of the number of South Africans who have returned. However, Schaffer does add that Homecoming Revolution is focusing its efforts on the estimated 750 000 to 1.4m South Africans in Britain (that's according to the SA High Commission in London. Britain's census puts the figure at a more moderate 400 000). "The large concentration of South Africans in London makes Britain the most viable location to hold (Homecoming) seminars," says Schaffer.
SA companies join homecoming campaign
The good news is that SA companies are starting to come on board, and Schaffer says at the next Homecoming seminar to be held in London on October 28 and 29, 16 companies operating in SA will attend. Some of the names include Sappi, Massmart, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Rand Merchant Bank, Netcare, Murray & Roberts, Webber Wentzel Bowens, PAG and Manpower. Of concern, though, is that public corporations Eskom and Transnet have expressed no interest in the initiative - strange, considering their continuous lament about capacity constraints. Eskom spokesman Fani Zulu says the State utility is engaged in a drive to recruit South Africans from overseas but says its first priority is to "exhaust all avenues in the domestic market".