‘Why I brought my family back to SA’
South African author, futurist and strategy consultant, Graeme Codrington, tells Homecoming Revolution why he decided to return home with his family.
Me, my wife and two daughters moved as a family to London in 2008 to get my business going in the UK.
My business wanted to grow its UK and European operations and as one of the founding partners, I was asked if I would move across and help in getting it going.
Obviously 2008 was a rough time from a business perspective due to the financial collapse, but over the next few years, we built up the business really nicely.
We lived in Wimbledon (little South Africa) and absolutely loved our time in London but after four-and-a-half-years, we decided as a family to come back to South Africa.
We decided to make the big move for four key reasons. The first is for family – this is home. The more we travelled internationally and the more we lived in the UK, we realised we were South Africans travelling internationally and living in London. We decided that if we felt this way, we may as well be in South Africa.
The second reason is lifestyle. You can really live in South Africa. I have travelled all over world and South Africa has the best weather and best lifestyle. Given the amount of money you earn and what you can afford to do with that money, I think there very few countries that can beat South Africa in terms of that lifestyle.
From a business perspective, I think it’s a very clever decision – Africa and sub-Saharan Africa in particular is the last frontier of economic development in the world. What’s happened in South East Asia in the last 25 years is about to happen in Africa and if you see pictures of Seoul 30 years ago you could be looking at Mombasa and Lagos today.
The third reason is we were concerned for our daughters’ education. You can get good and bad education anywhere in the world and if you can afford it, you can always get better education. But the UK education system is not the same as South Africa, especially in terms of the out of classroom activities. We also wanted our daughters to be South African in their characters. There is really something about being a South African that maybe you don’t recognise when you’re in South Africa but you do recognise it in other South Africans around the world- sort of a go-getter, a resilience that probably emerges out of our context but is definitely a gift we can give to our daughters.
The last reason is we genuinely wanted to make a contribution. In South Africa, the difference you can make in someone’s life can change their family and the course of history. You are literally 5 minutes away from these opportunities everywhere you go and as a family, that’s the way we want to live, we want to feel we aren’t just living our lives but also making a difference.
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Moving home does come with its challenges but the good outweighs the bad.
Although the infrastructure environment can be slightly challenging, it’s all about recognising that you’re living in a developing country. People who complain a lot about SA’s infrastructure haven’t travelled much because every developing country is developing.
I don’t want to sound like I’m not taking reality seriously and being too idealistic, but I think that’s part of the charm of SA. You don’t live in a place where everything is sorted and everything just works – another word for that might be boring.
You live in a place that is developing and growing. The danger of course is if it doesn’t develop. But certainly we are seeing lots of development.
Africa stands at the frontier of something exciting, but we need human capital – passionate, committed people who can contribute their skills.
In South Africa, we know what the problems are. The pessimists who sit on the sidelines are very one eyed. They don’t see us in the context of the world or in the context of a developing nation. We are a beacon of hope to other developing nations. There’s so much potential to do so much. I encourage pessimists to get off the sidelines and get into the game. Individuals can make a difference and they need to.
Come home and have a braai in the sunshine on any day of the year. Do it for others but mainly do it for yourself.
If you are exploring the idea of returning home, join us at our London event on 4 & 5 March at the Victoria Park Plaza. Book now.