May 11, 2015
There’s a joke in South Africa that the country’s greatest export is highly skilled people who leave in search of better opportunities.
South Africans who emigrate go mainly to English-speaking countries. By 2010 the research consultancy Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies said there were up to 700,000 South Africans living abroad, with 192,000 in the U.K. (the No. 1 destination), followed by Australia and then the U.S.
According to the U.S. census 2013 American Community Survey, 69,677 people born in South Africa are living in the U.S.
Filling the vacuum in South Africa are large numbers of often unskilled immigrants from neighboring South African Development Community countries that include Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
But since 2008, South African expats are increasingly returning home.
This homecoming is having an effect on salaries in South Africa, according to an analysis by Adcorp. The loss of skilled South Africans pushed up salaries for those who stayed behind, Adcorp said. The analysis referred to “a consistent shortage of high-skilled workers amounting to around 829,000 vacancies,” resulting in almost no unemployment among high-skilled South Africans.
An estimated 359,000 skilled South Africans have returned to South Africa since 2008, pushing down high-end wages, according to Adcorp, Mail&Guardian reports. These returnees represent 18 percent of the country’s current management pool, and 12 percent of all graduates.
This helped push South Africa’s ranking up from 80th to 47th place on the World Bank’s World Competitiveness Report for ability to retain skills.
We’re looking at South African entrepreneurs and entertainers who left and found fame and fortune in the U.S., becoming successful despite the competition in technology, business, and entertainment.
Between 2008 and 2012, most of the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Executive of the Year award winners were South African.
Lyndon and Peter Rive won Business Journal Executive of the Year in 2008; Elon Musk won in 2010, and Paul Maritz won in 2011. All were originally from South Africa.
They made it to the top of their game living in the diaspora. These are 12 South Africans making it in the U.S.A.
Patrick Soon-Shiong was born in 1952 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, to Chinese immigrant parents who fled Taishan in Guangdong, China, during World War II.
In 2011, Forbes ranked him as the wealthiest man in Los Angeles and the wealthiest American in the healthcare industry with a net worth of $12 billion US.
Part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, Soon-Shiong is a surgeon, medical researcher, businessman, philanthropist, and professor at University of California at Los Angeles. He is chairman of the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation and chairman and CEO of the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Advanced Health, National LambdaRail, the Healthcare Transformation Institute and NantWorks, LLC.
Selema Mabena “Sal” Masekela was born August 28, 1971 during his father’s 30-year exile from South Africa.
An American TV host, sports commentator, actor, and singer, he is the son of the South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela, and Haitian mother Jessie Marie Lapierre.
He is best known for his work presenting NBC’s Red Bull Signature Series; ESPN’s Summer and Winter X Games, which he hosted for 13 years; his reporting in South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup; and hosting E!’s Daily 10.
In 2014, Sal made his Olympic broadcasting debut for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, reporting for NBC. In 2015, Sal joined the Emmy-award winning investigative series “vice” on HBO. He will also appear in the remake of the cult classic “Point Break,”, scheduled for release in December 2015.
Elon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971 and moved to the U.S. soon after matriculating from Pretoria Boys High School. Musk co-founded Paypal and Zip2, and is currently the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, the CEO of Tesla Motors, and the chairman of SolarCity.
Roelof Botha was born in Pretoria in September 1973. Botha is one of the top venture capital professionals in the U.S.s, and is a partner at Sequoia Capital.
He’s on the board of numerous companies including Jawbone, Eventbrite, Evernote, Tumblr, Weebly, Unity, and Xoom. Botha was also vice-president of finance and CFO of Paypal.
Born in Zimbabwe in 1955, Paul Maritz and his family moved to South Africa where he attended Hilton College.
A computer scientist and software executive, Maritz co-founded Pi Corp. and served as president and general manager of EMC Corporation’s cloud computing division. He was also CEO of VMWare.
In 2010 Maritz was named CRN Magazine’s Most Influential Executive of 2010 and in 2011 he was named Silicon Valley’s Business Journal Executive of the Year. He also won the Morgan Stanley Leadership Award for Global Commerce in 2011.
Siblings Lyndon and Peter Rive co-founded SolarCity, one of the most recognizable brands in clean energy in the U.S. Lyndon left South Africa shortly after he started his first business at age 17.
Vinny Lingham was born in East London on Feb. 7 1979. He is a South African Internet entrepreneur and CEO and co-founder of Gyft, which was recently bought by First Data in a multi-million dollar deal.
Lingham also founded Yola, a San Francisco-based Web start-up. He is its CEO.
Pieter de Villiers
South African-born Pieter de Villiers made a name for himself in Silicon Valley, where the entrepreneur is the CEO and co-founder of Clickatell, one of the top global providers of application-to-person mobile transactional and mobile messaging services.
Charlize Theron was born on Aug. 7 1975 in Benoni. The Oscar winning actress starred in “The Devil’s Advocate,” “The Cider House Rules,” and “Monster,” to name a few After her Oscar win she became one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood.
Born in Cape Town, Pedersen is best known for his work as a robotics researcher at the NASA Ames Research Center, where he built robots to look for life on Mars.
He is a leading researcher for Nissan’s autonomous vehicle research program in California.
Willem Van Biljon
Born in South Africa in 1961, Willem Van Biljon is an entrepreneur and technologist who was educated in South Africa. He co-founded Mosaic Software, which built the Postilion payment system that was sold to S1 Corp in 2004.
He then joined Amazon, where he led the team that developed Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).
After van Biljon left Amazon he started Nimbula, a venture with Chris Pinkham, that focused on cloud computing software.
In March 2013, Nimbula was acquired by Oracle. In 2014 van Biljon joined Takealot as co-CEO.
Trevor Noah was recently named host of Comedy Central’s hit U.S. TV show, “The Daily Show.” He will soon be replacing Jon Stewart.
Born Feb. 20, 1984 in Johannesburg, he is a comedian, actor and TV/radio host. Noah is the son of Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah, a Xhosa, and Robert, a white native of Switzerland.
In an interview in the HeraldSun, he said, “My mum doesn’t fit into any category. She’s a black South African woman who’s half Jewish.”
His parents’ relationship was illegal during apartheid, and his mother was jailed and fined by the South African government. His father returned to Switzerland and Noah was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Nomalizo Frances Noah. During his childhood, he attended church every Sunday.