South Africa’s post-Apartheid dividend was enormous. But from what I’ve seen and heard in almost four months in London, it wouldn’t come close to the bonanza that will flow when real peace finally breaks out in the young democracy.
Yesterday typifies the extent of the diaspora. My inbox contained a mail from retailer John Lewis featuring its design manager, one Philippa Prinsloo. The daily note from The Times of London was signed by a digital editor called Martin Strydom. Then at the top end entrepreneurs-only networking event I attended over lunch, South Africans were present at most of the tables.
Conservative estimates put the SA expat population in the UK alone at half a million souls. A Calvinist work ethic makes them attractive to employers; they are generally well educated; and their command of the language and law abiding nature makes them a good fit for Brits. Many Saffers tell me they’d happily leave what they call “Mud Island” were there better prospects back home. But wouldn’t dream of it while there is so much political turmoil.
South Africans bemoan the lack of foreign investment. That is a justifiable concern. But it wouldn’t matter as much if the nation stopped exporting the skills and tax base every other developing nation is trying so desperately to attract. Nelson “Rainbow Nation” Mandela understood this reality. How sad his successors don’t – or won’t.