Diaspora? South Africa Calling. We Want Our Expats Back

Diaspora? South Africa Calling. We Want Our Expats Back

Since the 2008 global financial crisis, about 360,000 highly skilled South Africans have returned home from foreign countries, but other stories such as Oscar Pistorius, e-tolls and potholes made bigger headlines, according to a report in BusinessTech.

Several South Africans speaking at a Homecoming Revolution event at the London Expo 2014 urged delegates “to come back where they belong.”

A platform for African skills repatriation, Homecoming Revolution leverages the emotional hook of connecting the African diaspora to home, according to its website. It partners with public and private sectors to showcase jobs, property, schools, products, services, advice, investments and entrepreneurial opportunities in Africa.

South Africa needs the skills and expertise of its people living in the diaspora, said activist Yusuf Abramjee, head of South Africa’s Crime Line, at the London event. Crime Line is an anonymous South African tip line designed to get criminals off the street.

Abramjee told visitors at the OlympiaConference Centre in Kensington, London, that South Africa was plagued by crime, corruption, poverty, unemployment, e-tolls, load-shedding and potholes. “…and let’s not forget Nkandla (the name of the scandal — and a town in KwaZulu-Natal — linked to massive upgrades of President Jacob Zuma’s home, paid for by South African taxpayers).”

“Despite all of these problems, we need you and you can make a difference,” Abramjee told delegates, according to BusinessTech. “We need to all join hands and build a better country. Join us and become active citizens.”

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Abramjee and his family were themselves victims of crime in November when they were robbed at their Pretoria home. “It made me more adamant to fight the crime scourge,” he told delegates. “We have to all work together and make South Africa a better place.”

Abramjee said South Africa is not only about Oscar Pistorius and Anni Dewani. (Dewani was a Swedish-born woman who was kidnapped while taking a slum tourism trip through Gugulethu township near Cape Town in 2010, and later murdered. She was on her honeymoon.)

“Yes, these stories are making world headlines,” Abramjee said. “But, there is also much good happening back home.”

He encouraged South Africans living in the diaspora to vote on May 7, “wherever you are.”

He said, “It’s not about whether you wear a yellow or blue T-shirt (colors worn by the ruling ANC and the opposition Democratic Alliance party campaigners respectively) or sport a red beret (made popular by the Economic Freedom Fighters.) It’s about our future.”

As South Africa celebrates 20 years of freedom, it needs job skills, Abramjee said. “We have achieved much but a lot of work still lies ahead…We need you. It takes one committed citizen to make a difference.”

South Africans are coming home and this “is very encouraging,” said Angel Jones, founder and CEO of Homecoming Revolution. “There are many good stories to share,” she said.

South Africans who do return are contributing to a better country and continent, said Prof. Nick Binedell of the Gordon Institute of Business. “The continent has lots to offer.”

In May, Rhodes University conducted an online survey of 957 alumni from 22 countries alumni and found that 72 percent of Rhodian expats believe their skills and knowledge would be useful and valuable to South Africa. Forty-eight percent said they would be interested in learning more about incentives to relocate back to South Africa.

Ninety percent of respondents living abroad said they were satisfied with their lifestyle or jobs overseas, but 32 percent said they would consider returning to, or retiring in, South Africa. Twenty-eight percent were undecided. Forty percent said they considered themselves ambassadors and champions of the new South Africa. Thirty-three percent said they visit South Africa more than once a year.

The majority of these global South Africans said they still identify with their home country. Thirty-six percent said they have strong emotional and cultural ties. Fifty-one percent said they retain affinity and connections.

In January, Adcorp’s Employment Index showed that since 2008, almost 360,000 highly skilled South Africans have returned to the country from foreign work assignments. Adcorp claims to be South Africa’s largest diversified employment services company.