Each month starts with the same resolution: try not to focus too heavily on politics. Yet every month, I realise that this is a rather difficult undertaking, especially in South Africa these days.
During the past two months the country temporarily went into a lockdown level-4. We also witnessed, possibly the worst unrest since the 90s, in and around Durban and to a smaller extent in Gauteng.
Unfortunately, social media liberated these unrests together with our lack of protective police services. Cape Town experienced the worst taxi violence in over a decade, making it impossible for quite a few of our staff members to get to work. Some had to commute multiple hours per day instead of their usual 1 hour, while some were being shot at as they walked to the bus . The Third-Wave of Covid has affected many lives close to us, including our loved ones and opening the already-existing cracks in society and exposing the incompetence of the state from many angles. The harsh economic realities are becoming clearer and will only get worse considering what rising inflation will do to food and transport prices, both in the private and public sector.
It is extremely challenging to run any business these days when staff members are either sick or must stay away from work for covid or taxi-violence related reasons. My patience has been tested, although every single occurrence had a valid reason, the total amount of absence was at a 20-year high during the past 4 weeks, where working remotely is only half an answer.
It is not my intention to comment on the terrible civil unrest in KZN, because better informed journalists have covered this topic with so much more depth than I could. However, what I can share is that during the past four weeks, essentially during the month of July, we have received only three web inquiries of people intending to come to South Africa. We may not have the best digital marketing of all local immigration companies, but three inquiries in a month is a very low number. On the other hand, we receive around 6 to 7, sometimes up to 10, qualified inquiries per day of South Africans wanting to leave to either Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia or to the four European countries we currently offer (being Germany, France, Ireland and the UK). Considering that we do not offer New Zealand, Australia and Canada yet as destination countries, it shows what is happening in South Africa. Everybody and anybody who has the financial means or who is highly qualified is looking for a Plan B.
What this means for the long-term prospects of this country should be clear to everybody. I simply fear it is not clear to the ruling party or rather it is and they do not seem to care much about it. Not only do we lose highly skilled people forever, but the investors in South Africa are not spending a single Rand locally anymore. Instead, they are looking at diversifying their risk portfolio by investing overseas. These are businesses that have found success in South Africa. I cannot help but wonder what international investors, who are not currently in South Africa, will think of this country as a potential investment destination.
I am personally involved in assisting three large South African family-owned businesses, setting up additional manufacturing capacity outside our borders, instead of investing in the existing South African facilities. The main reason is for the option to take residence in another country while all three simply do not want to invest in South Africa anymore. It appears that Mauritius will soon have a very large South African expat population. Mauritius is the only country in Africa that significantly changed the immigration laws and regulations during the covered pandemic, thus attracting more foreigners, capital, or even just remote workers. In South Africa we cannot hope for any forward-thinking policymaking when it appears that the people close to a former president would rather see the country burn than build it.
At IBN Immigration Solutions we can feel the third wave in our revenue, and I am certain the political turmoil will not make things easier. We’ve had productive management workshops in Johannesburg in June. It was great to see some of our team members in person instead of on a screen. The three days lifted all our spirits, and we can’t wait for the next one in September. Our marketing team has undergone some fundamental changes and I’m positive that, from August onwards, I’ve found a capable core-team. At least on the vaccination front there is some positive news to share. I personally received my first shot over three weeks ago and our staff, who are mostly under 35, will be eligible to be vaccinated from the 1st of September onwards.
We, as a business, adapt and look for new services or markets, and I am confident that with the great team we have, we will be able to succeed even in these challenging times.
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by Andreas Krensel