Last month’s “from the CEO” contribution was rushed and meaningless for which I wish to apologise. I promise this month’s contribution is much improved. From the new draft critical skills list to an outlook for 2021 at IBN, I hope this month’s read is more entertaining.

Before I turn to South Africa, I wish to share some welcome news from Angola. Angola announced last week that it has decriminalised same-sex relationships. It follows Lesotho, Mozambique and Seychelles which have taken  the same step since 2012. However,  32 out of 54 African countries continue to  criminalise same-sex relationships. In particular, this applies to  almost all West African countries.

In South Africa we are facing yet another attack on the judiciary by a fraction of the ANC. We have an ex-president who swore twice on our constitution but refuses  to adhere to a ruling of our highest court; politicians mumbling that judges should “take the will of the people into consideration” (and I thought they would look at the law, silly me).   In the eyes of some members of the public, the independent judiciary, which we still have, is rather annoying and should be delegitimised .

We will soon hear how our Minister of Finance intends to tackle the large number of challenges he faces. A rather surprising windfall of tax revenue from the mining industry might spare us another tax increase. I really hope so. We are already highly taxed and receive  very little for our taxes  –  an argument I hear nearly every day from  locals intending to emigrate.

The draft for the new critical skills  list has been published last week, please find the list here. The public comment period is open until the end of March 2021 and we intend to submit a comment. Please feel free to contact me, if you have any observations or suggestions.

The new draft list is more extensive than the current one. In order to understand how the department arrived at this list I highly recommend to at least scan through “DNA Economics. A technical report for the 2020 Critical Skills list which you can find here. It is clear that  the draft critical skills list is founded on a clear methodology.

What is not clear to me, despite some research, is the meaning of  some of the job descriptions. There is no further explanation, and some job titles seem rather wide. Engineering, IT and digital marketing feature broadly on the list. I am a bit worried about C-level executives, which are not explicitly included on the list, with the exception of the CTO, although they should meet all the criteria used for the selection. Language skills in the contact centre industry will not be a critical skill anymore. However, the draft list seems to be a much more thought through list compared to the current one. I expect that the final list will be published around two to three months after the public comment period ends, thus around the end of May or June.
Critical skills visa holders who do not qualify for an extension under the new list, should consider applying for permanent residence soonest.

Which  brings me to the next topic: When will Home Affairs and VFS resume accepting permanent residence applications ? This topic was brought up during our last FIPSA (Forum of Immigration Practitioner) meeting. Home Affairs would like to clear their apparent backlog of 10.000 outstanding permanent residence applications before accepting new ones. FIPSA is of the opinion that this will take way too long. Firstly, we doubt that there are only 10.000 applications outstanding, our estimate is  closer to 30.000.  Secondly the constant Covid-19 related closures of the head office do not contribute to a faster  adjudication. The suggestion of FIPSA, which is supported by VFS, is that VFS accepts permanent residence applications now and keeps the files in storage. They are scanned upon submission and can therefore  be kept for a longer period of time without the danger of losing the applications. This seems a sensible suggestion considering that some of our clients have now been waiting for over 1 year to submit their applications for permanent residence.

Here at IBN I am spending my last two weeks of February with our annual planning sessions. Our new office in Mozambique is off to a good start and we are intending to strengthen the local team with a new hire soon. In Namibia and Kenya the plan of action will be to recover from 2020 and return to financial and operational stability and sustainability.

In South Africa we were able to keep all team members on board, a feat not many immigration companies were able to achieve . We are seeing an increasing interest in our Africa service offerings as well as in our newly established out-of-Africa services and will therefore dedicate more resources to these two service lines.

Personally, I would love to find time to implement at least one innovative idea we recently came up with in the B2C segment.

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By Andreas Krensel