Home-comers: Why some South African expats are returning home

Home-comers: Why some South African expats are returning home. Image credit: AdobeStock

Homecomers: Why some South African expats are returning home

(Partner Content) Amid continued global upheaval, an increasing number of South African expats are planning to exchange life abroad for the familiarity of home.

Home-comers: Why some South African expats are returning home

Home-comers: Why some South African expats are returning home. Image credit: AdobeStock

Returning to South Africa and the 2008 financial crisis

The global credit crunch of 2008 marked a watershed moment in financial history. In the few decades preceding it, most economic crises occurred in emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and elsewhere. While those events inflicted a great deal of economic and social hardship, the effects were rather contained.

The financial crisis of 2008, however, was rooted in colossal failures in many housing and financial markets. This led to volatile conditions for expats to navigate abroad, and the resulting monetary squeeze prompted a wave of large-scale repatriation. At the time, comfortable expat postings dissolved into nightmares as jobs were lost and local options became hard to come by. For many highly-paid professionals, returning to South Africa was their best option.

Despite the belief that leaving South Africa will take them to greener pastures, according to data from CNBC Africa, over 350,000 highly-skilled South Africans have actually returned home since 2008, when the financial crisis first began, and have been absorbed back into the labour force since.

How the pandemic led to re-evaluating reasons for moving abroad

When it comes to the reasons for moving abroad, roughly 49% say financial gain is a primary driver. However, it’s the pursuit of a better quality of life, health and wellbeing that’s key for the majority. Furthermore, 46% move abroad for personal development, while 40% make the move in search of a better work/life balance.

Now, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken the shine off those elements of expat life, and brought about massive lifestyle changes that forced many to reassess how they live their lives and what is truly important to them. Grandparents and parents suddenly seem very far away, and the fear of being confined in a country where the local language may be foreign and governments more prepared to help their own citizens than globe-hopping workers is a very real concern.

The effects of Covid-19 on the way we move and work

Human mobility has historically come in many forms. Accelerated by the advent of the internet, however, the desire and ability to move has increased to the point that it has permeated even the furthest reaches of the planet.

While exemptions are made for key professions (such as doctors, journalists, scientists, government leaders, etc.), those who do travel to work and travel for work might not do so for the foreseeable future. Lockdowns in response to the pandemic have altered traditional ways of working entirely. This new work landscape, combined with the onset of much more turbulent economic conditions across the UK, US and Europe, has resulted in many South African expats reimagining how they want to work and where they want to live.

Homecoming Revolution, a South African body which aims to bring home African diaspora professionals, says that many are returning, not just because of the state of the economy abroad, but for the opportunities awaiting back home. South African companies are currently prepared to offer excellent packages to skilled expats who will work in the country. Whereas 10 years ago these South Africans would have been absorbed into larger corporations, today it is medium-sized firms that are doing most of the hiring. At the same time, new flexibility around remote work has allowed others to bring their international jobs back to South Africa with them for the first time.

Moving back to South Africa: Your financial considerations

If you are considering moving back to South Africa after living abroad, there are many variables that need to be considered. The factor at the top of your list, however, will likely involve getting your money back into the country at the best possible exchange rate.

Working with exchange control regulations and knowing which amounts you can safely transfer requires expert knowledge and understanding. Exchange rates can significantly affect how much you will receive. A forward contract, specifically, can be considered a “buy now, pay later” product, which enables you to fix an exchange rate at a set date in the future. This tool allows you to lock in a specific price to avoid pricing volatility. Property transactions, for example, are known to be drawn out and are frequently hit with unexpected delays, so the ability to lock in a good rate while the sale completes can save you a lot of money. 

Working with a forex specialist means you’ll be able to convert funds ahead of time and avoid a lot of the risk that accompanies the process. The benefit of using a dedicated forex specialist, in this way, is that you will be able to access a cross-border transfer service, whenever you want to, that is perfectly tailored to your exact needs.

Whether you are moving your entire life and family back home or simply need to send money back to South Africa, our forex specialists are able to assist. Contact one of our consultants at forex@sableinternational.com or call us on +44 (0) 20 7759 7554 and we’ll help you manage all your foreign exchange requirements effectively.