SA expats returning in droves despite challenges?
Platforms encourage SA companies to recruit SA executives abroad and bring their skills home.
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To those who complain about South Africa, the news that expats are returning in droves seems absurd. Why would anyone come back to this godforsaken place, especially to Gauteng – GP, gangsters’ paradise?
We see many houses here for sale. Sellers are not getting their prices, so the reports are nonsense, right?
Not so, says Rory O’Hagan, principal of a Sandton/Hyde Park estate agency, who told eNCA that South Africans are returning in large numbers.
This is because of lifestyle issues, including family and friends. Some were finding they no longer had these support structures and the “euphoria of having left SA, left load shedding and crime, has worn off”.
On TV, he cited wars in Ukraine and Gaza among reasons why living abroad is becoming less attractive.
He also mentioned interest rate increases in some countries.
People are saying: “South Africa, potholes and all, is not a bad place to live because a lot of what we’ve got is resolvable”.
O’Hagan said Johannesburg has one of the best climates in the world. While property prices in Cape Town have risen, in Johannesburg they’ve dropped.
He said R10 million equated to about £427 000, which would not buy much in London but would secure a luxury home in Joburg.
People can “come back, bring the pounds, dollars or euros and live abundantly in South Africa”.
O’Hagan lives in my ward. We have many interactions over service delivery problems. So he is well acquainted with the challenges of living in Joburg. I asked him to elaborate on expats returning.
“We started noticing a definite trend in 2023 that more of our buyers were returnees, either from other countries or from the Western Cape,” O’Hagan said.
“It’s about 10 to 15% of sales and rising. This may not be the same for other groups that don’t have our international presence and connections.
“We ask returning buyers about reasons but we also follow online groups such as Return to SA, which has around 15 000 members (up by 2 000 in three months) to understand expat motivations and what sort of time scale they envisage. Some are on contract, a few years away from returning, but the majority are in the relocation process.
“We are also in contact with HomecomingEx, successor to the Homecoming Revolution platform, which encourages SA companies to recruit SA executives abroad and bring their skills home.
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“With a database of around 20 000 professionals, it places people with SA’s top banks, retailers and nonprofits.
Stats SA says there are around two million South Africans living abroad. About 50% of those have officially emigrated with the intention of remaining elsewhere.
“Many returnees are from the latter group because they have changed their minds after a few years.
“We think these decisions are made easier by the recent court ruling that South Africans do not lose their citizenship by becoming a citizen of another country. They can come home as South Africans with no need for a lot of red tape.”
Various websites put the number of reverse immigrations since 2009 at between 350 000 and 400 000.
Who would want to live anywhere else?
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