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PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN?

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Walking down George Street in the CBD of Sydney, Australia and hearing the variety of accents engulfing me I asked myself the question; ‘Am I proud to be a South African?’. Do I hold my head high ready to debate the current political turmoil or the perceived pessimistic outlook with anyone who dares question my country’s scruples? My initial thought was ‘Yes, no, maybe!’. My confusion and indecisiveness to this seemingly obvious question bothered me and I started discussing this question of national pride with other South Africans I had met in Sydney.

What I soon realised was that my confusion was not unique. So what now? Where to from here? Is the confusion isolated to a few ‘whinging traitors’ or is this the general feeling amongst young professional South Africans?

South Africa’s beauty and diverse culture is unparalleled. Our prevailing democracy is a beacon of hope for the rest of the world. We have overcome insurmountable odds in our defence against racism and hatred. This is an unbelievable true story of hope and proof that good always triumphs over evil.

However despite all these hurdles we have overcome as a nation we now find ourselves facing a new challenge – economic collapse! The recent brain drain which has been played down by the government in the past is reaching dangerously high levels. A significant number of CAs(SA) are opting for a new life in a new country resulting in a seismic hole in the current work force.

Why have I and so many of my peers made the decision to contribute to the economy of a foreign country in the hope that one day we will call it home? The answer is simple, uncertainty in the future of South Africa! Despite the ever increasing crime level, which is clearly number one on the list of reasons for leaving South Africa, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is a close second.

I have discussed these and various other questions with fellow CAs(SA) based, both temporarily and permanently, in Sydney (Australia) in an attempt to find some sort of similarity and consistency in the answers to the question – ‘Are you proudly South African?’. Here is some of what they had to say.

Wayne Windall CA(SA) is a Senior Manager at a Large mid-tier auditing firm.

Iain Kemp CA(SA), 34, Director.

1.            Why did you leave South Africa?

•              High level and violent nature of crime in South Africa.

•              High unemployment, high growth in the population (particularly in the rural population where education facilities are very limited).

•              The influx of illegal aliens from neighbouring countries, all of which impacts on the crime levels.

•              The need for long-term political stability where we could raise children with a good public education system and relatively safe living environment.

2.            Is the move permanent or temporary?

Permanent.

3.            Why did you choose Australia to ply your trade?

The choice of Australia was more around lifestyle than one of applying a professional trade.

4.            When did you leave South Africa?

2002

5.            Optimist, pessimist or realist about the future of South Africa?

Realist

6.            Are you proud to be a CA(SA) and why?

Definitely proud. Unfortunately I believe South Africa’s best export is their Human Capital. It does not matter where you go in the world you will find South Africans in top positions in companies and most of those are CAs(SA).

7.            Does your CA(SA) qualification give you a competitive edge in the Australian Market and why?

The immediate edge for CAs(SA) in Australia is the fact that in the early 90’s SA adopted all the IAS’s as SA GAAP. So CAs(SA) are very familiar with IFRS (IAS) as our accounting standards. Australia and the rest of the world are only adopting these standards now.

8.            Would you ever consider going back to South Africa?

‘No, having lived and worked in three countries on three different continents in the past 10 years, I want to explore different cultures and opportunities elsewhere in the world.

9.            One word to describe the reason for leaving South Africa?

Freedom.

10.          Would you invest in South Africa?

Yes.

 

Natalie Dekker, 25, Financial Accountant.

1.            Why did you leave South Africa?

Fear of raising a family in SA.

2.            Is the move permanent or temporary?

Permanent.

3.            Why did you choose Australia to ply your trade?

Similar in culture and climate.

4.            When did you leave SA?

March 2008.

5.            Optimist, pessimist or realist about the future of South Africa?

Realist

6.            Are you proud to be a CA(SA) and why?

I will write Part 2 in November 2008 and I am hoping to qualify and gain the prestigious designation, however I fear that the standard and quality of the CA(SA) will fall due to mounting pressures on SAICA to meet targets.

7.            Does your CA(SA) qualification give you a competitive edge in the Australian Market and why?

Despite not being a qualified CA(SA) I have found that the educational road to becoming a CA(SA) has placed me in an advantageous position in the Australian market. The current demand for technical excellence by SAICA has resulted in me having the edge in the market.

8.            Would you ever consider going back to SA?

No, unless the political shenanigans cease and all South Africans are given an equal opportunity to succeed. Crime is a huge deterrent and unless the government accepts responsibility for lowering crime levels the hope of a better South Africa is a pipe-dream.

9.            One word to describe the current economical state of South Africa?

Recession.

10.          One word to describe the reason for leaving SA?

Fear.

Quintin Williams CA(SA), 28, Manager.

1.            Why did you leave South Africa?

Better opportunities as a white male overseas and also the opportunity to travel and see new places.

2.            Is the move permanent or temporary?

I am still undecided – monitoring the situation in SA – the next 2 years I think are crucial for South Africa.

3.            Why did you choose Australia to ply your trade?

I worked in other countries before settling in Australia. The culture in Australia is the best and most similar to SA.

4.            When did you leave South Africa?

In 2006.

5.            Optimist, pessimist or realist about the future of South Africa?

On the fence at the moment – I think that the 2010 World Cup has a pivotal role to play.

6.            Are you proud to be a CA(SA) and why?

Yes – we have a high if not the highest skill level in the trade.

7.            Would you ever consider going back to South Africa? Yes – if things settle down and crime decreases.

8.            Would you invest in South Africa?

Yes.

9.            One word to describe the current economical state of South Africa?

Tentative.

10.          One word to describe the reason for leaving South Africa?

Safety.

 

Steven Smith CA(SA), 27, Manager.

1.            Why did you leave South Africa?

To broaden my view and experience business in a different country and be promoted on competence and not colour.

2.            Is the move permanent or temporary?

Temporary.

3.            Why did you choose Australia to ply your trade?

Climate, beach and sports culture.

4.            When did you leave South Africa?

In 2007.

5.            Optimist, pessimist or realist about the future of South Africa?

Pessimistically optimistic.

6.            Are you proud to be a CA(SA) and why?

Yes. Working in the US and Australia, the designation is the best and it shows when working with people from back home.

7.            Would you ever consider going back to South Africa?

Yes, the lifestyle is second to none that I have experienced but having lived without crime, I would not go back until I felt it was safe to walk the streets at night.

8.            What is the biggest problem currently facing the South Africa economy?

Trying to make BBEE a BEE policy overnight without the broader community being uplifted.

9.            Would you invest in South Africa?

Yes, I currently own shares listed on the JSE.

10.          One word to describe the reason for leaving South Africa?

Get away from home and stand on my own two feet.

11.          What is the best and worst thing about Australia?

Best: No crime and the city is clean.

Worst: The cost of living.

SAICA responds

Uncertainty is unfortunately the name of the game in todays world. As any developing economy, South Africa has its share of challenges. Peoples perspectives and approaches to dealing with challenge will always vary. An option is to turn and move, another is to face challenges and contribute proactively to the construction and reconstruction of whatever it is that is falling short. South Africa is a country with a wealth of opportunity. Those wishing to contribute, BEE or no BEE, will find that the opportunities are within reach and open to all. South Africa, now more that ever before, needs its qualified professionals to remain in the country and contribute to the reconstruction of this country. I strongly advocate that people go abroad and gain exposure to different economies and cultures. However, even more strongly than that, I encourage people to come back home with that acquired knowledge and skill and in so doing contribute positively to the development of this wonderful country we call home.

Nazeer Wadee CA(SA), is Chief Operations Officer, SAICA.

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