So many skilled workers are leaving South Africa

James Formby, CEO of Rand Merchant Bank, says thousands of professionals leave South Africa each year, leaving huge gaps in the country’s future economy.

Speak with 702, Formby said the land’s brain drain must not turn “trickle” into a stream.

He added that knowing exactly how many people have left the country is difficult because the government doesn’t collect emigration data – which means analysts have to use other countries’ information to compile statistics.

“The only way to actually do this is to look at South Africans who live in other countries and try to piece them together using long-term numbers,” he said.

“There is the best estimate 23,000 people leave each year, but anecdotal evidence shows it is higher. “

Formby said these South Africans don’t necessarily look for opportunities and “greener pastures” in other countries as many are simply “afraid of what is going on in their own backyard”.

In a separate interview with Business day This week Formby said the country is losing skilled and experienced people in their thirties and forties to positions overseas.

This is particularly true of skills in the infrastructure and development sectors, which President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted as key to the country’s recovery.

Formby added that it was extremely difficult to bring skilled workers into the country, which had eroded the country’s skill base – a serious problem reported by the RMB.

“For example, the South African Medical Association has been researching healthcare professionals … and 38% of them said they would leave if NHI was fully implemented.

“This uncertainty is not the kind of uncertainty you want this expertise to have because it takes years to develop and in turn it has to train the people who come after them.”

According to Formby, around 1.7% of civil engineers have left the country in recent years. “If we want infrastructure recovery in this economy, it is important to make sure we contain this tide.”

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