MyBroadband recently reported that a growing number of skilled South African ICT executives are leaving the country for the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
Interviews with these executives reveal that affirmative action, BEE, crime, and their children’s future are the main reasons behind the exodus.
To replace the experience and skills of these high-level ICT executives is nearly impossible, especially when considering their knowledge of the local environment.
Good news is that many highly-skilled and rich South African executives – who have the option to stay anywhere in the world – love the country despite its challenges.
These executives and business owners continue to add value to the country by creating jobs and sharing their knowledge with the next generation.
Why top ICT executives love South Africa
To find out what makes South Africa an attractive country, MyBroadband interviewed top-level executives and ICT business owners.
These executives were guaranteed anonymity to give them the freedom to freely discuss the real reasons behind staying in South Africa.
What emerged is that the country’s entrepreneurial spirit, quality-of-life, the natural beauty and weather, and local social networks are all contributing factors to South Africa’s appeal.
Many executives and business owners said the opportunities which exist in South Africa mean they can make money easier than in other countries.
“I can make lots of money with a successful business in South Africa. This means the higher risk environment – currency fluctuations, crime, and political uncertainty – has a big upside,” he said.
Another executive said we have far fewer qualified people in South Africa than other parts of the world.
“That means for me you have more opportunities to grow and your path to success is much shorter and easier,” he said.
“It also creates the opportunity to make a difference in the world you live in. With the big inequality in South Africa, you can be part of the process that brings change and makes a difference.”
An ecommerce founder said the entrepreneurial spirit in South Africa and the fact that it is a nascent, emerging market mean there are many opportunities.
“As a result, South Africa has a wonderful startup and small business community. There is a lot of enthusiasm and I find it very exciting and inspirational to be a part of it,” he said.
A well-known entrepreneur told MyBroadband that there are very few places in the world were people have such an innovative spirit like in South Africa.
“These entrepreneurs have the courage to back their idea by mortgaging a house and doing whatever it takes to get to the proof of concept stage,” he said.
Many of these executives live in Cape Town, which they all said provides them with a great working environment and great outdoor activities.
“Living in Cape Town and working in a high-tech environment is perfect for me, and add to this the relaxed nature of the people and the large number of outdoor activities,” one exec said.
Another ecommerce executive said the energy of the people, beautiful beaches and scenery, the wonderful weather, and diverse landscapes are what keep him in South Africa.
A former tech CEO said South Africa is fantastic. “Where else in the world can you have this lifestyle,” he asked.
“There is no long commute, we live in big houses, we have lovely outdoor activities close by, and we have wonderful food.”
A telecoms CEO told MyBroadband that there is no better place to live than Cape Town, with the mountain and sea on his doorstep.
“With a management-level salary you can live a very comfortable life. A person in my position could not live half as comfortably in many first-world countries as I can in South Africa,” an exec said.
Cost of living
One executive explained that his lifestyle in Cape Town can’t easily be replicated in another country. “I will need 15-times my current income to get what I have here,” he said.
Another executive said the large number of outdoor activities with a relatively low cost of living in South Africa makes moving to other, more restrictive environments unattractive.
“I find that the nanny-state in Australia, the weather in Canada, or the cost of living in Europe unappealing as examples,” he said.
All the executives highlighted that their family are based in, and are used to, South Africa, and moving to another country will break these links.
“My whole social network is in South Africa, including my family and kids. It will be very disruptive to move them,” he said.
Depends on your situation and choices
While these executives and business owners are very happy in South Africa, they are aware it is a tough country for many others.
“Every country has the same essential parameters that constitute the overall environment, like jobs, income, safety, lifestyle, education, culture, and your local environment,” one said.
He explained that the choice on where to live comes down to your personal choices, and in his case Cape Town is perfect.
Another exec explained that the decision about staying has a lot to do with where in South Africa you find yourself.
“If you live in a crime-ridden area and you want to relocate to another part of South Africa, the question about leaving for another country becomes part of the question,” he said.
“For someone in Stellenbosch or Cape Town it is much more difficult as it is only about leaving South Africa.”