Africans leaving Africa is bad for Africa

by oneafrikan on May 30, 2006

Peter has written an interesting post about why skilled people leaving Africa is so bad for Africa

As for me, I’m in the UK because I honestly feel that there isn’t much for me in Africa or South Africa (apart from the sunshine, people and wildlife of course) from a career / business persepctive, that is sufficiently motivating to move back… and even then, my parents have left the home I grew up in, so I really don’t feel like I have a home (or roots) right now – as we speak, I’m sinking roots in the UK, which is precisely what Peter is talking about… There are so many other factors at play – like taking cash home, buying a house, setting up a business or even getting the kind of job/work that would at least be equal to what I’m doing here – that sometimes creates conflicting emotions. One one hand I really want to go home, but on the other hand I’m just not sure the environment is right to do so (and a lot of that has to do with the way the government is dealing with their diaspora…).

Anyways – your thoughts if you’re African?


Must be the word on the street – Martin wrote about this on Sunday too: the African Way.

by coda on May 30, 2006 at 4:53 pm. Reply #

Thanks for the heads up Damien ;-) Am reading now…

by Gareth Knight on May 30, 2006 at 6:19 pm. Reply #

Martin has an interesting point of view – I’ve added my comments to his post:

Suffice it to say, my gamble is that I’m going to take my skills back to SA and build the country, for sure – I’m just not sure the climate is ready yet, and that the gov is doing much to make it easier to make the decision to go back and do all the things I would like to do…

by Gareth Knight on May 30, 2006 at 6:52 pm. Reply #

I read the articles and have decided that the time is not right. Unfortunately it is not yet right by a long shot. The Government ‘s drive to get skilled ex pats back is not the kind of inducement that will work on me.

I will go back when the issues that drove me away have been addressed and put right. Until then the roots here in UK grow stronger so making it even more difficult to uproot again.

by Robert on May 31, 2006 at 3:37 pm. Reply #

Hey there Strola,

Was reading your comments on coming back to South Africa. Your attitude towards this topic never ceases to amaze me! ;) Just a thought – The justification that you use for staying in the U.K., is it not just an excuse for the easy way out? To wait till everything is rosy here and then to come back? Interested! Anyway, how things going there Strola? How is work going? Work out this year you will have been in there for 5 years! WOW! Along time! How was it to have your Mom there? Lata Strola. Drop us a line. Other Strola

by Paul on May 31, 2006 at 9:03 pm. Reply #

Personally, my reasons for leaving South Africa were very different to most others I know: I honestly left BECAUSE OF the weather. I am very very pale — much more so than the rest of the family — and use to burn all the time in the sun. Despite factor 45 suncream, frequent reapplications, swimming in tshirts and all the rest, I was warned by my doctor that I was heading for skin cancer. I also really didn’t enjoy the heat — it made me stupid and ineffective.

So I figured — where can I go where it won’t be hot and sunny all the time? So far, England has been a perfect alternative — there’s only about 3 days of summer a year!

I would love to go back to South Africa … I just don’t think it would be the same if the nice weather went away just to accommodate me ;-)

by Meri on June 1, 2006 at 2:59 pm. Reply #

Hi Meri,
Your reason for leaving is perfectly justified, it’s for your own health! ;) But I have known my friend Gareth for a long time. And I have always understood his outlook towards this to be quite patriotic. But then he posts a comment as above and then I think….maybe not.

by Paul on June 1, 2006 at 4:10 pm. Reply #

I’m so busy right now, I want to write the longest post in the world, but…

@Paulie: I am patriotic dude, prob. more than the next fellow, yet there isn’t any visible proof for me that the logistics of achieving what I’ve set out to achieve would be possible / easier in SA. It’s not about waiting for things to get better before going back, it’s about siezing opportunity while I can here and now, instead of waiting for things in SA to pick up so that there is an opportunity – you simply can’t compare the state of the online landscape in SA / Africa to the rest of the world – those that do are woefully misinformed about what is really happening here… I challenge anyone to tell me that there is a viable online service / product market in SA to justify dropping 200K ZAR into for a realistic ROI… ;-) But then again maybe I’m wrong?

Anyways – will respond at length when I get back from France!
(PS – could you go to France from SA, for a weekend, for £50 plus drinks and food costs? ;-)

by Gareth Knight on June 1, 2006 at 4:19 pm. Reply #

OK, maybe I don’t fully understand what you want to do. But I assume it is something to do with the web. That said, there are a number of online services that could justify sinking that kind of money into. For an example of a flourishing online service – People spend tons of money for books and CD’s. It’s like your friend says, it’s a matter of having the necessity to produce a great idea suited for the african market and running with it. Purely based on numbers you could win. I don’t think you can sit in the U.K. waiting for S.A. to be ripe to produce opportunities for you to come and capitalise on. You will be stuck in the U.K. for a very long time. Make that opportunity, I think that is what your friend is saying.

But No! I could not go to France from here for that!! Lucky fish! But maybe it won’t be too long before I can, will see! ;)

by Paul on June 1, 2006 at 4:40 pm. Reply #

You’re missing the point dude – SA or Africa doesn’t have the size of market to warrant that kind of investment. I have it on good authority that Kalahari ran at a loss for along time, supported by the warchest at Naspers – and they had around 100 people working for them!


I don’t want to come home so that I can create opportunities for myself based on what the market needs in SA / Africa, I want to build web apps that people user all over the world – simply put, I think it would be harder to do that from there, than from here…

Anyways, more soon…

by Gareth Knight on June 1, 2006 at 4:45 pm. Reply #

@ Strola
So they are still around doing business then. ;)
Cool Strola, we’ll leave it at that.
Drop me a line and let me know what you up to!

by Paul on June 2, 2006 at 8:15 am. Reply #

As an interesting point has anyone thought of why their ancestors ended up in Africa or SA specifically? A very interesting point considering all the debate. I’m sure if you go back 2 or 3 generations you might see a large number of economic migrants. It is interesting to see the trend reverse.

I think you will continue to see people move to maximise their earning potential and lifestyle.

South Africa is going to have to be creative in order to encourage people to return or stay in this increasingly global marketplace.

I was involved in a technology upstart company in SA which is still flourishing. The company still faces the challenge to keep people in the country. Those who have chosen to stay often have reasons of family or preference for the outdoors lifestyle. Interesting enough we employ one Brit who has chosen to work in Cape Town on account of the weather :)

by Drew on June 6, 2006 at 5:34 pm. Reply #

Yes, I do think about it and I see the irony — you see, I’m a first-gen South African. My parents are both British. The reason I actually ended up born in South Africa was because my grandmother had TB and moved to SA for the weather!

See what I mean about irony? ;-)

by Meri on June 6, 2006 at 6:18 pm. Reply #

My 2p.

I came home. And yes, it’s harder, tougher, not as close to France, poorer, more difficult to start a business, the list goes on and on and on.

But white South Africans by our history are whiners. We get the absolute best, and we still whine. So when you have the challenges of living in Africa to weigh up against staying in rich, comfy, cozy, easy Europe, of course you’re going to whine. Not whine, really, more “ake excuses”. Because people whined when they were living here, now they live there and have a conscience that keeps talking to them and they deal with it by making excuses. There’s always an excuse. So you wont come home. Bottom line – that’s the reality, you’ve found something easier & better (for you, that is). And as time passes, you’ll find your conscience gets quieter and quieter as you get paid more & more ££.

Africa’s a tough place, ladies.

If you truly loved Africa, you wouldn’t be talking about the difficulties of coming home and starting a business. Bottom line: you love money. If you loved Africa, you would talk about the difference it made in your day to see black people empowered, to see the daily successes in the fight against AIDS, poverty, racism, inequality, etc. etc. etc. Sounds corny, but it’s true. If you loved Africa, you would be missing the happy faces and cheery smiles of the car-park attendants. Not complaining about how difficult it is for you to start a business here.

Starting a business is going to be hell anywhere. Maybe just a teeny bit less hellish in the UK. But you’re naive if you think that will make the difference between your business failing & succeeding.

I can’t believe people with the best education in the world, with the best resources in the world for starting businesses, i.e. supportive friends & family, still make the excuse that “the government doesn’t…” this or that. Like the government’s top priority is to cotton-wool the landing zone for your new business idea. You dont appreciate what you’ve got, sitting right between your ears, if you’re out there pointing fingers at everyone & everything and waiting for the ideal time.

You waiting for the murder rate to drop to Western European levels? You waiting for the ANC to ban Jacob Zuma from politics for life? You waiting for an end to affirmative action? You waiting for the fastest & cheapest internet? You waiting for an end to hijackings, child-rapes?

Then Africa is always going to be a dream for you. Always going to be an “I nearly went back when…” story.

I’m working for a start-up, and it’s almost gone bust many many times. We’re closer now than ever before. And if it does? I’m not packing my bags and heading back to London and blaming Africa. I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off, regroup, and try again. Because I have two dreams: becoming a successul entrepreneur, and making a difference in Africa. And they aren’t mutually exclusive.

Now I expect this post to get a bunch of vociferous replies, because it’s fine to criticise Africa, but it’s not fine to criticise South Africans that criticise South Africa. But my experience is, there are a lot of South Africans out there that just dont have what it takes to live in Africa: (1) a REAL love of Africa, and (2) balls.

by Sean on June 19, 2006 at 3:55 pm. Reply #

This is going to need a measured response – I don’t weant to be shot at dawn!
Will get to this asap.

by Gareth Knight on June 21, 2006 at 10:53 am. Reply #

I left SA when I got a job in the travel industry, and ended up setting down in the US. Now I’ve fallen in love with a beautiful American girl and we’ll be getting married next year. Think I’m going to take my bride back to a country where I’ll have to worry that there’s a very good chance that she will be shot, carjacked, raped, attacked, and otherwise harrassed? Do you think I could deal with the fact that when something happened to her, it would be partly be MY fault because I knew that the country had major crime problems, and I took her there anyway? I don’t think so. Our home in the US is not like my parent’s home in SA–we don’t feel the need to put razorwire on the top of our fence, or even the need to HAVE a fence around our property. She can go walking around by herself, even at night, without fear.

People may roll their eyes when expats name “to keep my family safe” as the reason they left SA. For me, it is the real thing, and they are my first priority. if SA can get itself straightened out, we might consider it. I’m not going to risk my family’s safety for any reason, for any country.

by Rockclimber on February 26, 2008 at 7:56 pm. Reply #

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