Why I left South Africa and what can be done to keep IT execs in the country

Many South African ICT professionals and executives are leaving the country, and the main reasons behind their decisions are affirmative action, BEE, and crime.

This emerged from interviews which MyBroadband conducted with high-level ICT executives who left South Africa for Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The executives who were interviewed were guaranteed anonymity to give them the freedom to discuss the real reasons behind their decisions.

One ICT Executive provided detailed information about his decision and his new life in Australia.

He also shared his views on what South Africa and local companies can do to retain IT executives.

His answers provide valuable insight into the exodus of IT skills from South Africa, and how this can be addressed.

Why I left South Africa

The ICT Executive said there are five reasons which influenced his decision to leave South Africa.

  • Personal safety: My family and I were particularly hard hit by violent crime in South Africa. When we weighed up pros and cons, personal safety simply outweighed everything else.
  • Public health services: A huge consideration for me was the fact that public health services in South Africa have deteriorated dramatically in the last 10 years. The cost of private health in South Africa is very high, and I certainly did not want to be 65 years old and be unable to afford private health care in South Africa.
  • The real value of my pension fund at retirement: The cost of living in South Africa has dramatically increased, and it has become challenging to ensure financial stability after retirement. I did not want to be caught in a situation 20 years from now where my retirement fund is running out.
  • My age: I always considered Australia as the only suitable destination to leave SA, and the cut-off age for immigration was recently adjusted to 45.
  • Education: South Africa has one of the worst public education systems in the world, and I did not want our kids to go to private schools.

He said the decision to leave South Africa was unrelated to his employer.

My professional life is much better in Australia

He said his professional life is much better in Australia than in South Africa for the reasons below.

  • Quality: The quality of service providers and specialists in Australia is at a completely different level than in South Africa. Although it must be said that the associated cost could be 80-100% more.
  • Ease of doing business: The core ICT infrastructure across Australia for connectivity and cloud data centres is of the highest quality, whereas Microsoft only now got Azure going in South Africa, with no Office 365 option yet.
  • Corruption: Dealing with large contracts and suppliers in South Africa can be a bit of a minefield, with many an IT executive becoming a legal and contracting specialist, instead of staying focused on delivering value-adding technology to the organisation. It’s a real pleasure to operate in a near corruption-free environment.

He did, however, highlight that Australia is expensive and service providers are not shy to charge.

What can be done to keep IT executives in SA

The ICT Executive said South African organisations that want to ensure they hang on to IT executives and specialists should play an active role in dealing with the challenges in the country.

  • Safety and security: Personal safety is more important than a large salary, and most people would prefer to sleep safely than have a big bank account. Companies that can offer secure offices and housing can mitigate this to some degree.
  • Personal development: The IT sector is changing rapidly, and companies should ensure that their IT executives are exposed to first-world technology and not left behind.
  • Offshore pension fund: Organisations that can offer dollar-based pension funds can help mitigate the risk of the unstable rand.
  • Invest in electrical supply: Without an electrical supply, an IT executive’s hands are cut off. South African companies would do well to invest in getting off the grid, which will provide an enabling environment for IT staff.

Now read: The truth behind IT executives leaving South Africa

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Why I left South Africa and what can be done to keep IT execs in the country