Returnees + Locals, together we can build a great South African nation!

Who are returnees? These are South Africans who lived, studied, and worked in foreign countries for at least more than 1 year and return to South Africa with new set of skills, insights, knowledge, newly acquired foreign language, newly acquired foreign culture, even new additional citizenship/national identity and extensive international network. And they are by birth proudly South African citizens who, like everybody else, want to contribute to the development of the country.

Who are the locals? All of us, irrespective of whether you are a returnee or you have never been away from the country. The fact that you have never left the country does not make you less important or less knowledgeable. You just happened to develop yourself from home base. In South Africa, especially, have facilities and infrastructure equally advanced as any other country. 

South Africa has not managed to integrate these two groupings of equally valuable citizens to its benefit. We continue sending our people abroad but when they come back we do not know what to do with them. Instead we despise them. We have the best talent out of our political and economic returnees but it is sidelined. We must demand answers from ourselves. Why are we know creating space for our best talent to show case itself?

Many of our people lived in exile and got educated there. Some were born there. We label them exile children and despise them, especially those who do not speak their own mother languages. They also sometimes struggle to integrate back into South Africa. Our attitudes toward each other leaves a lot to be desired. 

What happens to those South Africans who are living and studying overseas now? We helped developed them through our basic and high school education resources. Do we have plans how to integrate them when they get back home with those great global qualifications? 

Progressive companies, institutions and organizations of the world send people on international exchange programmes. Such people when they return home are given appropriate roles to benefit their countries. 

We should be sending youth in large numbers on international exchange programmes in anticipation of economic boom because that is coming. The world never stays in recession forever. The economic cycles do happen. In times of recession we prepare for the times of boom. In times of boom we prepare for the times of recession. That is Economics 101.  

I am a product of international exchange programme under the then Carl Duisburg Gesellschaft e.V. in Germany. I know of many South Africans who did similar programmes in various countries, especially in the 80s when South Africa was classified as a beneficiary of various United Nations programmes because of Apartheid system of Government then. During sanctions some multinational and international private companies were encouraged to run international exchange programmes for black South Africans. 

My life has never been the same since I came back from the international programme in Germany. My relationship with Germany continues to benefit me and my country. The question is: why have we downgraded the importance of international exchange programmes? What kind of future are we going to give our country and it’s youth? This does not mean that foreign development is better than  local one. No, it is just an addition and variation we should bring into the mix. Exposure to overseas is an investment in the future. That used to be the slogan of the Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft e.V. 

The German chemist, founder of Bayer AG, Mr Carl Duisberg, believed strongly in international exchange. He started international exchange programme between the young Germans and Americans. The programme was later extended to the Japanese. Africa, and South Africa in particular, became the sending continent and country in the 80s. I benefited from such a programme. I am saddened that such programmes are no longer in large numbers for our youth. We need them more now than ever before.

We have many returnee sportsmen and women in South Africa. We do not have integration strategy for them. In fact we sideline them, and we keep on dreaming that we will one day win World Cup. Look at Benni McCarthy at Cape Town City FC. It is the international exposure at the highest level that is working for him and the club. We are proud of him. International football has shaped his character. It is out there for us to see. Nothing happens by chance. Congratulations to the Chairman of Cape Town City FC, Mr John Comitis for being visionary by recognizing Benni McCarthy. 

The same goes for coach Steve Khompela. The many years he spent in Turkey exposed him to international game. Nobody can take that away from him. He became one of the best sport commentator in Turkey after his playing days. There are many others like him that we are not making use of at the national teams level like, Lucas Radebe, Steven Pinnaar, etc. We do not have to like each other but we must give those who qualify and deserve the opportunities chance to contribute to the country’s development.

We must learn to acknowledge our international talent. In fact we must know of each and every single South African that lives, work and is studying overseas now. We must jealously encourage our country to seek and engage this talent. South Africans have gone out to develop other countries because we just do not care. This is sad. We must change it. 

Let’s talk! The 4th Industrial Revolution is here. We will once again like we did during the dot com era be donating our talent to the outside world. This must stop, and now!

Your input and feedback is welcomed!


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