This is because the country's talent migration abroad has created a valuable knowledge network and a latent asset base that can boost South Africa's competitiveness.
So states a report by the South African Business Link to Experts (Sable) Accelerator, a Silicon Valley-based global group of South African expats who advance commercial innovation and exchange for their home country.
“There is a massive pool of predisposed South African expatriate talent waiting to be tapped globally,” said Donovan Neale-May, managing partner of the Sable Accelerator and chairperson of the Rhodes University Trust USA.
“These standouts in many fields of endeavour are willing and eager to give back to the country. They just need to be invited, engaged and recognised through a formal process of interaction.”
Many of South Africa’s best and brightest university graduates have left the country during the past 40 years to gain career experience, influential contacts and prominent positions.
But this brain drain could actually translate to significant “brain gain” both in SA and abroad, according to a global alumni survey by Rhodes University.
A sizeable 72% of Old Rhodian expats living in more than 20 overseas countries believe their skills and knowledge would be useful and valuable to South Africa.
Of these, 48% said they would be interested in learning more about incentives to relocate back to South Africa.
Rhodes University conducted a comprehensive online survey of its alumni in May 2013 with the help of international marketing firm GlobalFluency and the Sable Accelerator.
The survey assessed the input of 957 participants from 22 countries, of whom 40% (387) currently live abroad.
Besides South Africa, Old Rhodian survey respondents live in the US, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong/China, Bermuda, India, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
What the suvey found
Key findings from the survey show that:
• While 90% of Old Rhodians living abroad are satisfied with their lifestyle or professional position overseas, 32% would consider returning to or retiring in South Africa, and 28% are undecided.
• Forty percent of Old Rhodians living abroad consider themselves ambassadors and champions of the new South Africa, and 33% visit South Africa more than once a year.
• The majority of these global South Africans still identify with their home country; 36% say they have a strong emotional and cultural attachment, and 51% retain affinity and connections.
• Thirty-six percent of Old Rhodians living abroad view transformation in South Africa positively compared to 24% who view it negatively; 34% are neutral.
• Friends and family remain the primary way for 81% of expat Old Rhodians to stay connected to news and developments in South Africa. Other important sources include internet websites (68%), international media (47%), and social media groups (41%).
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