The very demanding year of 2022 is nearly over, and I have to say that I can’t wait to start the new one. We have had multiple successes this year and grown as a company from strength to strength. However, this year has been (besides 2020) the most emotionally challenging year so far in my career.
Three reasons made this year so extraordinarily exhausting:
The Failures of Home Affairs
Firstly, there’s the desolate performance of the Department of Home Affairs. The badly prepared centralisation decision, our team’s advocacy for its reversal, as well as the terrible adjudication performance of the Department of Home Affairs, have all made our lives and the lives of our clients very challenging indeed. I’ve been involved in South African immigration for over 20 years and the current situation is the worst I’ve ever witnessed.
It cannot be overemphasized how absurd some of the rejections are, how long the processing times of pending applications are, and how the rights of applicants have been trampled by sheer incompetence and lack of leadership. Home Affairs is currently sitting with a backlog of over 56 000 applications.
The Department of Home Affairs is not meeting its executive task to administer the immigration act and isn’t contributing in any positive way to the economic growth so many desperate South Africans need.
Changes in Staff
Secondly, we had quite a few staff changes this year. Some were triggered by the above-mentioned terrible performance of Home Affairs and the subsequent client pressure we face daily. Others left due to personal choice after many years at IBN Immigration Solutions. Two overlapping maternity leaves also did not help with my stress levels!
Due to long-standing employees leaving, we did drop the ball for a few private clients. This was not acceptable or near the standard I want people to expect from IBN. The newer staff that have joined this year are learning quickly, and we are confident they will grow into fantastic additions to the team. We have worked hard migrating clients to these new immigration advisors, and are confident they will be satisfied.
Lights Off During Loadshedding
Thirdly, the continuing and worsening load shedding is taking a serious toll on the business, but also on our employees in their private capacity. It is very hard to run an immigration practice where the printing of applications is still a vital component. Our Johannesburg office, and even Cape Town, were often without power for 4 or more consecutive hours. Some of us leave home without electricity, to arrive at work with no electricity, only to return home with no electricity. Productivity falls behind and adds immense pressure to our lives.
We have moved staff to laptops and have a UPS for the office to try work through loadshedding. This has proved somewhat effective, but when the power remains out for over 4 hours, or goes off multiple times in a day, batteries cannot charge, and eventually we are left without power.
Striving Through Adversity
Despite all these challenges, I truly believe that as a company we achieved a lot during this year. We acquired J Fetting Inc. in August 2022, a leading immigration firm in South Africa. I have to say the merger and onboarding of clients, as well as taking on two key employees, could not have been better implemented. I wish to explicitly thank Mr Jonty Fetting for all his support in making this transition as smooth as possible.
In addition, we launched a new website – this is not a small task! Our marketing team has improved hugely compared to the previous year and I really hope we can see the fruits of their efforts during 2023.
For the first time in a very long time, we were also successful in obtaining a court order regarding outstanding permanent residence adjudication. We expect the first results of this court order to come to our clients in February 2023. I’m quite relieved that we were able to obtain this quote on our order without further incurring costs for our clients.
Our Namibia branch had a great year, and I’m very positive for the following years under the leadership of Uaaruka Kandjii. Currently, Namibia is doing a lot right from a policy perspective: reducing processing times, introducing a Digital Nomad Visa, and creating a welcoming immigration administration which is supportive of their most recent oil finds, as well as the upgrading of mines and potentially the upcoming hydrogen projects in the South of Namibia. Namibia is currently doing what South Africa should do.
The same praise applies to our Johannesburg office who have, under the leadership of Lindiwe Mapota, had a great year and grown together as a team while integrating additional staff members successfully.
Conferences and Thought-Sharing
We attended 3 conferences this year: EURA in Spain, IBA in the UK, and GABS 2022 in Johannesburg as an exhibitor. It was truly a pleasure to personally connect with so many of our network partners, clients, and friends. It is always great to share our thoughts on the immigration landscape and be around like-minded individuals discussing current trends and outlooks of immigration internationally.
Shortfalls of the Year
We failed to achieve a positive cash flow in our Kenya and Mozambique office. Additionally, due to staff changes and the high volume of project work (particularly in Namibia) we failed to implement our case management software.
The Outlook for 2023
I think South African immigration will remain stagnant. Experts don’t foresee a significant improvement in load shedding, and I personally see no significant improvement within the ANC and its constant infighting. I hope I’m wrong. I’m even more certain that the Department of Home Affairs, without a significant change in leadership, will continue to prohibit foreign direct investment rather than facilitate it. If mobility is not in the scope of the Department of Trade and Industry, I fear the economic growth of this country will be frustrated.
In January, we will introduce our new case management software, Relocation Online. All systems are now ready to start the implementation. We have reached out to some of our key clients, and they have expressed a keen interest in moving into using the software.
Improving Our Offices and Reach
We hope to revitalise our stagnating Mozambique office by the already-employed Mr Jonas Knobs and we hope that he can grow our Maputo office.
We’re also very confident that our Kenya office will finally show a black 0. The efforts of Sandra Estermann, our senior immigration advisor, are starting to bear fruit and I personally hope to attract more work into Kenya from my international network of law firms and relocation management firms.
I’m very excited to welcome Candice Hendricks back into the office in early January after her four-month maternity leave and can’t wait to welcome Bianca Nicholls back in March. We will potentially share more good news with you in 2023, with the possibility of adding another office to our growing list of three offices outside of South Africa. I think this new office will be based in Northern Africa.
Thank You for the Support
Personally, I hope I can focus more on building the business and improving our quality even further in the following year.
I would like to thank all our readers for their feedback, it does really motivate me to write these columns, and I hope we can continue to add some real value to you all.
I, as well as the IBN Immigration Solutions Team, wish you a lovely festive season, and a great start to the New Year.
Written by Andreas Krensel
Edited by Simon Carletti
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