A recent survey conducted among a group of returning South African executives found that their primary reason for returning to South Africa was to be reunited with family and friends and to be more involved in the development of the country.
Conducted by Mindcor, the largest executive recruitment company in South Africa, the survey also found that the economic downturn had played a role but that it was not the primary motivator for the growing numbers of South Africans who are heading back.
Mindcor director, Sam Schlimper, says most had expressed concern about the high levels of crime but that they had accepted this as the price they would have to pay to enjoy the many benefits that the country had to offer.
“It was encouraging to see how positive all of the returnees who were surveyed were about the future in South Africa and the majority said that they wanted to be a part of that future.”
In order to meet the demand of both South African executives who wanted to return to the country as well as locals who wanted to gain experience working abroad, Mindcor is currently opening an office in London.
“Our London office could, in a small yet meaningful way, act as a conduit to reverse the brain drain that we have experienced over the past few years. It could also offer South African business the exposure to global best practice that these returnees will be bringing home,” says Schlimper.
The majority of those surveyed said that they had felt safer in countries like Australia and the United Kingdom but that they considered the fact that they would have to get used to living with crime a small price to pay for the quality of life offered by this country.
Almost all of the candidates surveyed said that they were glad they had taken the plunge to work abroad as it had enriched their lives. They were also unanimous that young South Africans should consider living and working overseas for a period of time to gain experience and to see for themselves that the grass was not always greener on the other side of the fence.
Among whites surveyed only a small percentage saw affirmative action and black employment equity as a problem in terms of finding employment, Schlimper says.
Homecoming Revolution, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping expats return home, said that there had been an increase in the number of enquiries they received and that a growing number of South Africans were returning home.
Homecoming Revolution MD Martine Schaffer says the organisation’s web site was receiving 8 500 unique hits a month and around 200 calls a month from expats who wanted information about the situation in South Africa prior to taking the plunge to up stakes and head home.
“Every time we have our exhibition overseas where we highlight prospects in South Africa and spread the word on job opportunities, we meet numerous expats who are thinking of heading home.”
At their last fair in London some 1 200 people attended, she says.
She estimates that there are around two million expatriates living mostly in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.
Statistics from The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) show that 2 508 of its members are currently working in the UK, 1319 in Australia and 740 in the US.
“However, what is encouraging to note is that the majority of members – 24 455 – have chosen to remain at home,” says Matsobane Matlwa, chief executive of SAICA.
Despite this encouraging figure, SAICA estimates that the shortfall of qualified Chartered Accountants is now 500 a year.