The CDE today released its response to the government’s draft immigration regulations.

“The time has come to act decisively”, said Ann Bernstein, CDE director. “South Africa needs to implement a bold new approach to immigration. The president’s investment council has now lent their weight to calls for greater freedom to import skills into the country. What is holding us back?”

The president has been forthright about the lack of capacity in the public service and the delivery problems this causes. The country is desperately short of qualified and experienced teachers in maths and science. The private sector lacks the abundance of skills it needs to expand and help drive South Africa’s economy to the higher growth rates essential to combat unemployment. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor consistently rates South Africa well below competitor developing countries – one of the reasons for this is that we are not encouraging risk taking entrepreneurs (large and small) to move to SA.

The CDE response to the new regulations is broadly positive – many amendments quite significantly ease the procedures for entry into the country. However this does not mean that we will necessarily have a successful immigration regime.

“We are concerned that many of the key requirements – implemented in the context of capacity and efficiency problems in our public administration, could lead to time-consuming and costly compliance procedures. We are concerned that a zealous application of the regulations could reinforce the image of South Africa’s immigration regime as slow moving and protective,” says Lawrence Schlemmer, CDE consultant.

CDE is particularly concerned about two issues:

  • Quotas: There will be a mismatch between how the quotas define the skills we need and the actual skills needed by South Africa’s fast moving economy. The regulations pertaining to quota work permits substantially circumscribe the flexibility of our proposed immigration control system.
  • Business permits: The proposed requirements will discourage potential investors. The proposed capital investment is too high; the requirement to base new business in out of the way places is a strategy that has failed in South Africa and around the world; and the necessity to employ five South Africans from the outset ignores the reality that many small/micro businesses start out as family enterprises and only later grow to include non-family members. Why exclude these hard working individuals from our economy and tax base?
  • Ten years after democratic rule was instituted and many years of debate on migration, the time has come for a bold new approach.

CDE believes the new immigration regime must:

  • Send a message to prospective immigrants across the globe that South Africa welcomes foreigners who can make a productive contribution to our economy, to project management and to training young people
  • Send a clear message to all relevant officials that immigration is a positive phenomenon for South Africa and all its citizens
  • Reassure employers that quick and speedy processes are available for them to recruit the skills they need
  • Enable and encourage departments and corporations to go out and actively recruit the large numbers of skills that we need.