The past decade has seen a rapid decline in the number of dollar millionaires living in South Africa.

Not only does this represent a loss in tax terms, as the rich take their investments and money elsewhere, but it points to what could be a worrisome trend; the exodus of elites before complete economic and social collapse in countries which ended up becoming failed states.

The recently published South African Wealth Report for 2020 by New World Wealth, which tracks the global wealth sector, presents a disturbing picture.

 Although South Africa remains the biggest wealth market on the African continent, there are signs of the country’s richest individuals getting ready to leave the country in droves. 

The report finds that the number of US dollar millionaires in South Africa peaked at 48 600 individuals in 2010.  However, by 2019, that number had fallen to 38 400 – a decline of 10 200 or 27%. There are a number of reasons for this decline, including a decline in the country’s currency and a poorly performing property market. 

These are mainly due to political instability as a result of factional battles within the ruling African National Congress, the country’s slide into junk status, the absence of economic reforms in a sluggish economy, and populist policy choices such as expropriation without compensation (EWC) scaring investment away. 

Pack their bags

These factors have undoubtedly motivated increasing number of South Africa’s rich to pack their bags. New World Wealth expects this trend to continue. 

This much is evident in FNB’s annual Estate Agents Survey. The Survey shows the proportion of households selling their property. The main reason why people sold their property was to downscale with ‘life-stage’, followed by downscaling due to financial pressure, and emigration. 

The proportion of those selling their property because they were emigrating stood at 17% in the second quarter of this year.

However, when you analyse this category by wealth, it is clear that wealthier South Africans are the biggest proportion who are leaving. In the lowest price segment (R750 000 and less), 7% sold their property in order to emigrate.  In the wealthiest segment (R3.6 million and more), 25% sold their property in order to emigrate. 
These trends should be a wake-up call for South Africa. 

In 2000, a large chunk of Venezuela’s elite, most of them highly skilled and educated people, began leaving the country when they sensed the growing hostility of an authoritarian government. 

Safer locations

As Venezuela’s Socialist Bolivarian government stepped up attacks on national and international firms, these corporations were prompted to relocate to safer locations in South America. This encouraged many of the country’s skilled professionals to follow suit.  Further intrusions by the government into academic research centres and private universities led to an exodus of the country’s intellectuals. The firing of 20 000 highly qualified oil industry professionals following a strike against the government accelerated the emigration trend among elites and skilled citizens. 

According to official US statistics, 135 000 Venezuelans immigrated to America after Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1999. His presidency would mark the start of the so-called ‘war on the upper classes’. 

South Africa is showing similar signs of a country nearing the edge of collapse. The government is becoming increasingly intrusive in the private sector, with proposed policies such as the nationalisation of the healthcare sector, and frequent references to prescribed assets and the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank. Should these policies be enacted, the trend of South Africa’s rich and professional elites exiting the country for good will likely increase.

A survey by Solidarity in 2019 showed that around 40% of healthcare professionals would consider leaving the country should the National Health Insurance (NHI) system be implemented.

The exodus of the rich and the skilled should serve as the first warning sign of a country heading towards collapse. 

Government should instead heed this warning and put policies in place that will allay the fears of the country’s elites, and allow for more wealth creation to take place.  

[Picture: Chronis Yan for sharing their work on Unsplash]

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52 COMMENTS

      • Typical commie intelect ,actually zero IQ,cause only the elite will prosper in Venezuela ,but here we havent oil to back up their looting,like Zim we got zilch so only very few will prosper amongst the marxist idiots.

  1. I don’t think it’s meaningful in any way to say that South Africa is Africa’s largest economy, or home to Africa’s wealthy elite. Africa is a manure cavity, if you catch my drift. It may be more relevant and meaningful to compare BRICS countries, or emerging economies, or OECD countries, and note South Africa’s standing there.

    Furthermore, the elite have already left. I would have left by now if I could afford it as well, and I know for a fact that the vast majority in the tech sector are either considering emigration, or are working remotely for foreign companies already and in the process of moving over.

    South Africa seriously has to reconsider expropriation without compensation and any other smell that even hints in the direction of Venezuela or Zimbabwe.

  2. I wouldn’t consider myself elite, but I am in the top 1% of earners in South Africa.

    I know several very wealthy people who already have the majority of their assets offshore. There is nothing that the ANC/EFF (one organisation for those who haven’t yet realised) can do anymore to get money to stay in the country. The wealth is already out of the country.

    The majority of people who have taken that wealth are, however, still in the country. They have one foot out the door.

    If the ANC/EFF continue along the lines that they are, then yes, those people who have the wealth to create the jobs and keep the economy employed will take the other foot over and be gone permanently.

    A number of my friends have already left for countries such as England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US. The Netherlands is also becoming very popular.

    I am in the process of going as well.

    For me, there are a handful of things that would need to change for me to consider staying. (My friends who have already left or who are in the process of leaving have most of these factors as their reasons too.)

    That would be:
    – the destruction that is BEE would need to be scrapped completely
    – the ANC/EFF would need to send their criminals to prison to serve full terms
    – the idea of expropriation without compensation would need to disappear
    – the government would need to fix the police immediately
    – the government would need to fix the education system immediately
    – there would need to be a concerted plan implemented to fix all bumbling and broken SOEs
    – racism, violence and racist rhetoric must be punished severely by the government and those perpetrators must be sent to prison

    It is obviously a tall order that I don’t think the ANC/EFF are even remotely capable of fulfilling since their corruption has become too entrenched in their culture and they have become intellectually vacuous as an organisation.

    Hence, as they wish (in their racist rhetoric), the whites are leaving. Even many of the tenderpreneur blacks are taking their money offshore which really engraves the writing onto the wall.

    It was good while it lasted, but unfortunately the ANC/EFF has destroyed South Africa and it is only a short matter of time before the full extent of that is visible and felt across the country.

    • That’s an astute list. The top of my list would be EWC. Sorry, but there is no rational thought behind that. It is theft writ large and that writing is on the wall.

    • Thank you Joe Public. Your words are verbatim what I would have written. My exit strategy has been well prepared, and there is life outside SA 🙂

    • A change in policy direction of the magnitude that you are wishing for would be miraculous indeed and therefore highly unlikely. These policies are the product of the collective [un]wisdom of the ANC. Thus whilst the ANC is in government there is not likely to be any change in then. Faced with this reality there are various options for minorities who recognise the suicidal nature of the policies. One is to immigrate if you can but there are many who can’t, what are we to do. The only thing is to work for legal secession from an SA [mis]governed by the ANC. Check the ULA website for details.

    • I too am preparing to leave, eg. family now have EU passports etc. I have to admit that I’m extremely reluctant to do so – possibly why I’m even still here – but with the new tax conditions kicking in for 2020 onwards, there is no longer any possibility of remaining.

    • I unfortunately could not agree with you more.
      Unfortunately the country has gone down the drain,
      I have a mother of 89, she has carers.
      Both say how terrible things have become since 1994
      Poor Nelson Mandela, who sat in prison for 27 years and fought for the Freedom of this country, would be so very disappointed with the corruption and the faction fighting of the ANC
      It is time for criminals, abusers, rapists and murderers to be put into jail and hopefully make SA a safer place to live and hopefully be able to rebuild SA

      • These commies dont see things thru your eyes they see it thru a commies eyes and as we all know no commie has ever made a success of their country.These guys live in their own little Walt Disney type world and dont see reality at all.Heard a comment from a black radio announcer on 702 saying that the reason that the apartheid governments SOE ran well was cheap labour. Wow they dont acknowledge bad management and looting and incompetence as the reason for the demise of the current SOE’s.With people like that how can we not just give up, there is a denial of whats really going on and its being spread by the liberal meadia.Bloody scary.

    • Spare a thought for those of us in the lower middle class who have NO options. I am 57 and my husband is 70 and is retired. He was self employed for the majority of his working life.
      We worked hard and denied ourselves pleasures for 30 years so that we could enter our retirement without debt, but this has left us asset-rich and cash-poor.
      Even if we sold our house and liquidated all our other assets (difficult in the current environment), we would not have enough money to enter another country as retirees. Emigrating with a work visa is also unlikely as I do not have a tertiary qualification, nor experience in one of the “sought after” fields. So we are trapped;
      We have no option but to ride the dragon to it’s inevitable demise, clinging on for dear life.
      Fortunately we have our Faith – a deep abiding Hope that God will save our land; It’s our bulwark against complete desperation.

    • You missed the NHI from your list. What investor or skilled person would want to stay in a land where they and their families would be denied good private healthcare?

      • There’s nothing wrong with a public healthcare system per se, not even with an exclusively public healthcare system. But there is an awful lot wrong with an exclusively public healthcare system run by an ANC government.

  3. I’m not so sure that I’m sorry to see some “elites” leaving the country.

    During the late 1970s and 1980s as the internal and external “threat” escalated, elites and particularly the stereotypical Waterkloof Ridge elite became less visible in favor of the middle class solid citizen and his/her traditional values that were promoted as the bedrock of stability and also inevitable political change.

    Soon after 1994 elitism quickly resurfaced with the vulgar projection of wealth ranging from ultra exotic cars to gold toilets being bandied as proof of political influence and rationalized as being aspirational for the masses (of increasing poor). Certainly the accumalation of excessive profit by many, continued unabated if increasing so at the expense of the salaried tax payer and the minimum wage earner.

    While South Africa can ill afford the loss of a bonafide entrepreneur or specialist (ito the potential and protected economic ramifications as the article suggests) and particularly those with some semblance of a social conscience, perhaps those who regard themselves as “elite” and who are motivated disproportionately by material gain will be better off elsewhere. Is the departure of ex- KPMG and Bosasa executives really a loss to our country or will we really only be missing their purchasing power?

    Our country is rather in need of individuals who irrespective of class are committed to contributing in whatever form to constructive debate, social responsibility, fair remuneration and support for those institutions who campaign for equality and good governance.

    While in terms of real-world considerations those who have taken the decision to emigrate is sadly quite understandable and the impact of their expertise will surely be felt, by creating international awareness they may help to stave off a Venezuela scenario and elicit support for changing that which influenced their decisions to leave.

      • I am so glad whenever intelligent , well educated & well trained people leave the continent (nobody is going north of the Limpopo) because they are wasted on this continent. Africa doesn’t deserve to have anybody with brains & the quicker they go back to the pre colonial days the better. Let’s face it even Donald Trump refer to this continent as the arsehole of the world. The number of whites that will be die of natural causes & exterminated eventually is half of the Jewish holocaust. Sorry but that is history. RIP RSA

        • Considering IPID’s track record, it’s doubtful that these complaints will lead to any serious consequences for most of the accused. Of the over 42 000 cases opened against police with IPID between 2012 and 2019, only 1% resulted in a conviction and 4% in disciplinary action. This means that 95% of the time, police officers experienced no sanction for alleged misconduct. These people are paid with South African’s Tax money & I will believe nobody that there’s a future for just about anybody. Where is the so called best constitution , the so called legal system, can somebody please wake up our judges sleeping behind their benches earning R4m/year.

          • Dear Lord what evil these people in power lever. R4 million a year for judges who don’t uphold the law and our constitution. My goodness I wonder what judgement will be laid upon then in the end 😥

        • No-one should be glad about investors and professionals leaving South Africa. This kind of anarchistic bitterness has no place.

    • You are correct to question whether our elites are the productivity-gods they are sometimes assumed to be. The correlation between elite status and productivity is only a heuristic; while productivity does cause elite status, some other things we specifically DO NOT want also cause elite status: economic privilege (and before lolbertarians clutch their pearls over the P-word, I’m referring to that which makes a market less than free: economic rents captured through P-worded access to the political elite or through simply having wealth (think of “qualified investors” who get the good opportunities that an everyman citizen can access only through these P-worded middlemen)).

      If (and it’s a big if) it’s disproportionately (successful) rent-seekers who leave, then we’d arguably be better off without them. They’re effectively parasites on our society. But their leaving is no guarantee that they won’t simply be replaced by new (successful) rent-seekers.

  4. On Socialism from Breitbart.
    Socialism’s tenacity — even in the face of economic and social collapse — is that it changes the society around it in ways that are almost irreversible.

    It creates groups of people entirely dependent on the state — poor recipients of welfare, middle-class bureaucrats, and crony capitalists — who fear, reasonably, that freedom will damage their interests. They mobilize politically to protect their benefits, long after the state can no longer pay them.
    Socialism also rids society of groups of people most likely to oppose it. The private sector and professional elite, whose assets are to be redistributed for the sake of the elusive goal of equality, learn very quickly that resistance has a massive cost. They wealthy people are just being “useful idiots” for that movement.

    Eventually, they’ll get eaten by the same “monster” that they supported because under it all is a tyrannical socialist government agenda that will not be calmed until it controls everything, including those wealthy people and their money.

    So, they tend to leave, which suits the short-term interests of the regime — even if it guts society of the skills it needs to maintain economic growth, and the leadership it would need to restore liberal self-government. Socialist just don’t give a damn.

    Isn’t this so true of what is happening here.

    • Agreed. Whereas other countries have recovered from socialism / communism, over many years, these countries (eg in Eastern Europe) were populated with relatively intelligent and motivated people. Probably >70% of the SA population do not fit this description.

    • Yes, socialism does feed on itself in a downward spiral until the bloated beast dies. But in a democracy it can be reversed. This is our hope.

  5. Coincidentally, within a few years of the ANC taking power in SA, William Rees-Mogg, the former editor of the Times of London (and father of current British MP, James) co-authored a book titled “The Sovereign Individual”, predicting the effects of the globalised digital economy, especially the ability to move funds around.

    They assumed that the wealthy, unimpeded by thoughts of solidarity or patriotism, will shop around for the most favourable jurisdiction to park their wealth. They assumed that “individuals” with wealth will only be interested in maximising their after-(low) tax returns.

    The two decades since the publication of this book seems to have bourn out much of what they predicted — including anonymous cryptocurrencies. Certainly the “departing elites” of this article seem to be following their prediction.

    Perhaps a little less preoccupation with “our people” by CR and the ANC collective and more attention to ALL Southafricans and the economy might stem or slow down the capital flight and brain drain the country simply can not afford.

  6. Middle and even lower middle class from SA is also leaving. They going to Eastern European countries, especially Poland ! where in many cities majority of population speak English. Taking jobs as “native English teachers” or in the IT industry that is very English in Poland and employs a lot of foreigners from all over the world. By chance I came on the Facebook on the group ” South Africans in Poland” I could not believe how many are interested to come there and asking questions how to get in. This group seems to have well over 1000 members?

  7. I’m not elite nor rich and our departure left 7 breadwinners unemployed and a PAYE tax hole of just under R2mil. Best feeling ever.
    The beauty about it is that the government can’t budget nor compensate for that unplanned loss of income.
    Get every cent you can out while it still has some value. Lets start a fund where we buy housing, the deteriorating Randela will become your winning ticket when you bring your money back.

  8. Marcell ,

    There are no winning tickets in this game of roulette. It is fast developing into a game of Russian roulette without any empty chambers.

    Indeed Cry the Beloved Country.

  9. The biggest concern is the brain drain: the technical able middle class that does the actual work. It is not about the position, it is about the ability and work ethic that can not readily be replaced. I am afraid to say but ANC style BEE goes against all motivational theories – apart from being racist and polarising.

  10. It is the reality that human societies are the product of the collective mindset of the individuals that comprise the society. This mindset is expressed through the government. We are on the face of it a democracy but governed by a government comprised of majoritarians rather than democrats, so we are, in truth, not a democracy. The consequence of this is that it is the unadulterated majority mindset that is running the country and as we can see, from the devastation all around us, it is not a socially healthy mindset. Individuals who can see this have three options. One is to stay and sink with the ship of State. Two is immigrate, if you can, to a more benign country. Three is, if you can’t immigrate or value your heritage too much to abandon it, work for the legal secession of minorities from an SA [mis]governed by the ANC. Check the ULA website for details.

    • For some reason that is beyond me people are reluctant to go the way of secession. One would think it would be eazy to get 2 mil people to agree.
      It shows me that minorities still think the farce called ‘rainbow nation’ will work out at some point. I find it unbelievable.

  11. SA is fast approaching a failed state status and nothing can stop this as a point of no return already happened in around 2017. To effect a real change this cANCer govt will have to agree to a govt of national unity and declare a state of emergency on corruption.
    Those that created the problem can’t be those able to fix it. The only hope left is to vote them out of power and install a center pro business new order. Even if this dream happens, it will still take at least 20 years to fix what this corrupt ANC destroyed. Not holding my breath.

  12. Do you think these white-hating Communists gives a damn? The more (let’s face it) whites choose to leave, the better according to their world view. It makes it easier to implement their Socialist policies and they care not one bit if the country goes down the drain. As long as the top level of pyramid (the pigs in Animal Farm) can live in absolute luxery.

    • That may be the irrational reaction of many of those impoverished by decades of selfish right wing National Socialist rule, followed by another quarter century of selfish left wing National Socialist rule. The Nationalist portion of the first groups rule was characterised by white racism, the second by black racism. But think of it, here were still a goodly proportion of whites who opposed the NP regime and eventually unseated it. A number of black professionals and business leaders are opposed to the ANC regime and can do the same while we still have a democracy. But evil has to be opposed for this to happen. It might take time, but with God’s help it can be done. Evil has its own built-in “kill” gene that limits its life span. (I thought that I would never live to see the end of the USSR. But it fell. I never thought I would live to see the end of NP rule. But they went the same way. The clock is ticking in the ANC as well.

      • Most engineering companies that I knew from 1961 when I started my apprenticeship has all but disappeared & gone out of business. In it’s heyday there were the mining co.’s with there own eng. dept.’s apart from the major companies like Dorbyl, Roberts Construction, E L Bateman & too many more to mention. Where are they today? History. If any big projects will be released in the future experienced staff won’t be enough. So better give it to overseas project companies that doesn’t have to put up with all the S.A labor problems and people that strike for even the most ridiculous of reasons, and burn down anything they can get hold of. We even built our own nuclear enrichement plants.

  13. I am staying. Not being arrogant, but I am needed here.
    I am a farmer, my husband a metallurgist. We had a chance to leave-twice.
    We opted to stay. Stupid? Maybe, but then again…maybe not.
    I am not out to enhance our country, just my little corner of it.
    We started the process nine years back and are sticking it out… no matter what.

    • Well said! Early in my career I had the opportunity join the US EPA. I turned it down because God had called me to work for ater for peace in South Africa. My little role helped to dismantle the apartheid regime. God did not bring that about just to let the growing rottenness in the ANC mess things up. The selfishness of mankind will continue to the end and the followers of God will continue to call people to apply the salt to to preserve society from decay and to shine light into dark recesses to send the rats scurrying back to the dark corners. Not such a good prognosis for those who hear this call and run. “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses it savour, with what shall it be salted? It is no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out and to be trodden underfoot by men.
      You are the light of the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:13,14.

  14. After eating all the bananas, cannibalism may become an option for the starving african masses. Get out of this hole, if you can. If you find this prediction disgusting, please try to see the funny side and picture Dr. Livingston peering at you from his stewpot. Any comments welcome.

  15. There are three options:
    1)Leave ,if you can afford it.
    2)Put your money in an overseas account and try and stay alive as long as possible .
    3)Go for self determination like Orania or USAF(Zuidland).

  16. Imagine been a 66yr old pensioner surviving on a mere grant and hear the news that the R200 Covid Relief expired that is from November you will get a grant minus R200,to them its a lot of money but l know all of them give R200 to their children as pocket many to school, lwas a tax payer for R47 yrs and they think its a priveledge to receive a grant,may God open the minds of those that are stuck voting for the anc so that a new gov try to build up what they (greedy anc) have destroyed, l remember when people were upset with Mr DeKlerk and the Mr Bothas for releasing Mandela and the others ,and then allowing the very first vote for a Democratic Country someone answered “we give them10yrs to destroy this country” hardly 55yrs after that the downscalling became visible to some of us coloured community.

  17. I am most certainly not in the dollar millionaire class, but I am comfortably middle class and relatively privileged white. I opted to stay when I was young enough to go. Being 63 now the opportunity is now lost – too old to start afresh and not wealthy enough to be able to live in retirement elsewhere.
    Those commentators above who encouraged specialists to stay just don’t seem to get it: it is of no use for us to stay because of the racist policy of the ANC. They will rather not have a service rendered than have it being provided by a white Afrikaans man like me. I worked for the Dept of Water Affairs and has post graduate qualifications in both water environmental science and engineering. The stinking rivers and contaminated water attests clearly to the need for my expertise. However, I was told to my face that I was neither needed nor wanted any more. So I left and then worked as a specialist contractor. That option also became unsustainable due to BEE requirements. I was told that I must take on a BEE partner (who would get half of everything without lifting a finger) or loose my contracts.
    So here I am, with lots of qualifications, practical experience and eagerness, but not allowed to apply it, sometimes not even for free.
    I’m now getting my few SA rand millions out of the country as fast as I can, bought a house in the Western Cape and hope and pray that maybe WC secession will save my family from being forced into the kind of penury that my Zimbabwean relatives have fallen into.

  18. South Africa is a Godless country now !

    God helps those who help themselves .Please people, try
    to get out of this Country while you still can .

    God Bless you all , ANC/EFF not included !

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