Top 10 Countries Of The South African Diaspora

By Carri Wilbanks AFKI Original Published: June 13, 2014, 11:10 am

South Africa can boast dozens of universities and one of the best educational systems on the continent. But with financial instability, this quality of education can actually work against a country. Thousands of educated and skilled South Africans leave the country to find work elsewhere, resulting in a serious brain drain. It is estimated that brain drain from doctors alone cost South Africa $1.41 billion from lost investment in skilled labor.

With the economic recession of the mid 2000s, about 359,000 South African emigrants returned home from 2008 and 2013. Even so, brain drain is still a significant problem for South Africa. There are vacancies for about 830,000 skilled positions in South Africa –twice the number of emigrants who have returned home. It is estimated that one in 10 new South African graduates will leave the country.

It is difficult to calculate exactly how many South Africans have left the country and where they have gone because emigration is not tracked in South Africa. According to the latest information from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2010 reports, these are the top 10 countries of the South African diaspora.


1. France

France has taken in millions of African immigrants. There are about 5.3 million African-born people living in the country, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE). Of these, just a small portion — about 4,600 — are from South Africa, but this makes France one of the top 10 destinations for the South African diaspora.

2. Ireland

There are about 7,500 South Africans living in Ireland. These immigrants benefit from having a shared language with their new home. Ireland also has one of the easiest immigration policies in Western Europe. Lehmann Lehmann

3. Germany

Germany, with its cold weather and very different culture, might not seem like a place that would draw many South African immigrants. However, Germany’s position of political and economic power in Europe makes it attractive to immigrants from all over the world. Dat from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development puts the number of South Africans living in Germany at about 8,000.

4. Netherlands

Many white South Africans are Dutch descendants, which may be why the Netherlands is home to nearly 13,000 South African immigrants. South Africans who miss their home while living abroad can connect through the South African Club, which brings people together with organized events.

5. Canada

Nearly 40,000 South Africans live in Canada, with about 10,000 having arrived between 1980 and 1990. Canada encouraged the immigration by recruiting South African doctors. Immigration data show that nearly 80 percent of all South African immigrants to Canada came as skilled workers whereas only 3 percent came as refugees.

6. New Zealand

New Zealand has a population of about 4.4 million with about 42,000 South Africans living in the country — close to 1 percent was born in South Africa, according to OECD data. As a result, there are many different social groups for South Africans in New Zealand.

7. U.S.

Compared to the entire U.S. population (about 320 million), the South African immigrant population of around 80,000 is a very small group. However, South Africans have been successful in the U.S., heading tech companies, leading prestigious foundations, and making it to the list of Forbes’ top venture capitalists. One former South African, Nana Meriwether, even won the title of Miss USA.

8. United Arab Emirates

With its booming economy and job opportunities, U.A.E. has drawn immigrants from all over the world. So much so that immigrants in UAE now outnumber natives 11 to one! Anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 South Africans live in U.A.E., and it has been nicknamed South Africa’s 10th province. (

9. Australia

After South Africa became a democracy in 1994, a huge exodus of South Africans of English descent left for Australia. According to OECD data, there are more than 150,000 South Africans in Australia. Most live in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne.

10. United Kingdom

Considering South Africa’s history as a former British crown colony and their common language, it isn’t too surprising that the U.K. is the leading destination in the South African diaspora. According to OECD data, there are nearly 230,000 South Africans living in the U.K. This number represents people born in South Africa and not their U.K.-born children.

Sign up for the AFKInsider newsletter — the most compelling business news you need to know from Africa and the African diaspora, delivered straight to your inbox.

Tags: , , , ,