Hardie Minute

Expats are flocking back to sunny South Africa in numbers despite the various challenges that the country is facing and the promise of greener pastures elsewhere.

These are largely seen from expatriates from European countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Germany, as well as the Middle East and the United States.

“This diverse demographic underscores the widespread appeal of South Africa as a desirable destination for repatriation,” said tax attorney at Tax Consulting SA, Richan Schwellnus.

This trend has caught the attention of various experts – particularly real estate and tax professionals.

CEO of Chas Everitt International Property Group, Rory O’Hagan, told Newzroom Afrika that “the trends that we were feeling [in] 2023 was an uplift in [South African expats] asking us,” to either rent or buy South African properties.

Tax expert Schwellnus said that over the last 6 months or so, Tax Consulting SA has noticed “a significant uptick in South Africans enquiring about returning home.”

People are coming back

Despite South Africa’s challenges, the grass is proving to not always be greener on the other side.

Schwellnus explained that some of the ‘push’ factors cited by many expatriates for leaving the countries that they went to are:

  • The steadily increasing cost of living especially in European nations;
  • High inflation;
  • Unpleasant weather;
  • Strict regulations that affect all aspects of daily life;
  • Cultural differences;
  • The ongoing energy crises triggered by the Russia / Ukraine war
  • Lack of familial as well as friendship structures;
  • Some expatriates have reached mandatory retirement ages in Middle East countries, which prevents them from renewing their residency permits therein.

“Despite its well-publicised challenges, South Africa still has many ‘pull’ factors,” said Schwellnus.

Some of the reasons that expatriates cite for being drawn back are:

  • Sense of nostalgia and longing for home;
  • Favorable climate conditions;
  • Relatively high quality of life;
  • Familial ties;
  • An especially affordable cost of living are available to those expatriates who have been working abroad and earning in dollars or pounds.

“Other reasons mentioned are that many South Africans with young families want their children to experience the country’s natural beauty, diverse cultures, and a welcoming atmosphere that is not necessarily always available elsewhere,” said Schwellnus.

Schwellnus additionally said that South Africa offers opportunities for both personal and professional growth due to its strategic location as the gateway to Africa, advanced banking initiatives, and a “business-friendly regulatory environment”.

He said that the country is a relatively cost-effective and attractive destination for entrepreneurial ventures and foreign investors looking to capitalize on the continent’s potential.

Seth Thorne, BUSINESSTECH –“Big shift for emigration in South Africa – why expats want back in” Web blog post. 24 Feb 2024