Born and raised in the Netherlands, I first visited Southern Africa about 15 years ago. Despite all the warnings and negative perceptions spread by the media, I was struck by the people. Their resilience, creativity and ability to express emotions so freely have always been a true inspiration to me.
I decided to make South Africa my home, right after finishing my university degree. It has been an interesting journey, full of struggle, having to hustle, and rely on my own resourcefulness to make it. Where a life in the Netherlands would have been comfortable with safety nets span out throughout, I have been forced to mainly rely on myself.
I have been with IBN for many years, right from the start of the Johannesburg office. I have witnessed the organization to grow year on year mainly due to a great vision and narrowing of the scope of services to immigration as our sole field of expertise. We opened various offices throughout the continent and the world started to recognize us as ‘the’ immigration services company for Africa.
Over the past few months, the Corona virus has overtaken the world, not leaving Africa untouched.
Borders are mostly closed and international travel highly restricted. As could be expected, the immigration services sector is one of the hardest hits.
Along with a wide range of other industries and organizations, we are forced to go back to the drawing board and seriously assess our business model. What makes it more difficult than anything else is the uncertainty of what our ‘new’ future will look like and when we can expect some sort of normality again. This calls for creative and out of the box thinking of where we could add value. Do we expand our immigration services beyond Africa, or should we diversify and venture into other areas to limit dependence on immigration? These are some of the questions we are asking ourselves, resulting into heated brainstorm sessions among ourselves conducted remotely from the comfort of our homes.
Africa is expected to be among the hardest hit, mostly lacking the resources to offer the generous stimuli packages in the West to support business and employees through this crisis.
How will the continent come out of this?
The ratio debt in relation to the GDP will rise, increasing the burden of servicing and reducing debt. South Africa committed to a stimuli package equaling around 20% of its GDP, to counter the negative effects of the crisis on its economy and to ensure the poor will not die from hunger.
Although this much needed support is essential, the long-term effects of significantly increased debt levels are a big reason for concern.
On the bright sight, I expect to see a rise in the resourcefulness of Africa with its people among the most resilient citizens on the planet. This might create the opportunity which will force Africans to look inwards and unite as a continent. The new free-trade continental agreement might well be our own stimuli package creating future employment and prosperity.
Will there still be a place for selfish leaders in the new era or will these be sidelined opening the way for genuine leadership? In South Africa we are witnessing true leadership by our President, which is a true relief and comfort after years of corrupt and destructive leadership.
Although I am aware that this storm will leave its trail of destruction, I am hopeful this crisis will force us to work together and build a strong and transformed Africa.
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By Hans Kroll