south african business link to experts

press release

South Africa Can Turn Brain Drain Into Brain Gain

Survey by Rhodes University and The SABLE Accelerator Reveals 72 Percent of Alumni Living Abroad Feel Their Skills and Knowledge Would be Useful and Valuable to South Africa

Palo Alto, California (Jul. 15, 2013) – South Africa’s talent migration abroad has created a valuable knowledge network and an untapped asset base that can further the competitiveness of the country, reports The SABLE Accelerator, a global group of South African expats advancing commercial innovation and exchange with their home country. SABLE (South African Business Link to Experts) is based in Silicon Valley.

While many of South Africa’s best and brightest university graduates have left the country during the past 40 years to gain career experience, influential contacts and positions of prominence abroad, a new global alumni survey by Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa shows this so-called “brain drain” could actually be a significant “brain gain,” both onshore and offshore.

 A sizable 72 percent of Old Rhodian expats living in more than 20 overseas countries believe their skills and knowledge would be useful and valuable to South Africa and 48 percent say they would be interested in learning more about incentives to relocate back to South Africa.

 Rhodes University conducted a comprehensive online survey of its alumni in May 2013 with the help of GlobalFluency, an international marketing firm, and The SABLE Accelerator. There were 957 participants from 22 countries. Some 40 percent of the respondents (387) currently reside abroad. Countries where Old Rhodian survey respondents are living include South Africa, USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong/China, Bermuda, India, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Key findings from the survey on international Rhodes University graduates show that:

  • While 90 percent of Old Rhodians living abroad (387 out of the 957 surveyed) are satisfied with their lifestyle or professional position overseas, 32 percent would consider returning to, or retiring in, South Africa and 28 percent are undecided
  • 40 percent of Old Rhodians living abroad consider themselves ambassadors and champions of the new South Africa and 33 percent visit South Africa more than once a year
  • The majority of these Global South Africans still identify with their home country – 36 percent say they have strong emotional and cultural attachment and 51 percent retain affinity and connections
  • 36 percent of Old Rhodians based abroad view transformation in South Africa positively, compared to 24 percent who view it negatively; 34 percent are neutral
  • Friends and family remain the primary way for 81 percent of offshore Old Rhodians to stay connected to news and developments in South Africa; other important sources include Internet web sites (68 percent), international media (47 percent), and social media groups (41 percent)

 “There is a massive pool of predisposed South African expatriate talent waiting to be tapped globally,” notes Donovan Neale-May, managing partner of The SABLE Accelerator (South African Business Link to Experts), and chairman of the Rhodes University Trust USA. “These stand-outs in many fields of endeavor are willing and eager to give back to the country. They just need to be invited, engaged, and recognized through a formal process of interaction.”

“Our partnership with SABLE in conducting this survey of our graduates seeks to ensure that we contribute to discussions of national and international importance,” added Dr. Saleem Badat, Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University. “It will in turn help us to engage at an intellectual and institutional level with issues of interest to our alumni.”

The SABLE initiative ( launched in August of 2012 is gaining real traction. It has a global advisory board of more than 50 illustrious business leaders, financiers, academics, researchers, consultants, medical and life science professionals, who trace their roots back to South Africa. SABLE also has cooperating agreements with leading government-funded research centers, technology transfer offices of leading universities, diverse funding sources, incubators, trade and economic development agencies, as well as advocacy groups advancing both innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition, SABLE is working with a diverse group of emerging growth companies from South Africa seeking access to the North American market.

 A big part of the SABLE value proposition is the formation of an elite online community of expert Global South Africans (GSA) who possess knowledge, expertise, influence and access abroad. SABLE is using a customized version of the MentorCloud SaaS platform to enable GSAs to import their LinkedIn profiles, present their credentials, and specify whether they wish to consult, mentor, coach, speak, lecture, invest, or serve on a board. They will also be able to provide pro bono coaching and mentoring services, extend their professional networks, as well as monetize their time and expertise.

South African-based “Innovators” will also be able to register and post information about their intellectual property or new business models at the web site with the aim of furthering links to Experts and sources of funding and business development support worldwide. They will also be able to search for compatible and relevant global experts to help them take their IP or business models to market, as well as provide advice, coaching, mentoring and introductions. 



The SABLE Accelerator (South African Business Link to Experts) aims to further South Africa’s economic interests through global knowledge transfer and the growth of a trusted expert network of expatriate South Africans willing to contribute back to their country of birth through coaching mentoring, consulting, advising, teaching, training, funding or donating.  SABLE consultants, advisors and academic faculty include a wide range of successful business leaders, international domain experts, educators, venture capitalists, consultants, authors, professional service providers, government representatives, advertising and marketing gurus, trade and commerce experts, as well as non-profit innovators. More information is available at


About Rhodes University

Rhodes University ( is one of South Africa's 'top five' research-intensive tertiary institutions.  Based in the academic enclave of Grahamstown near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province, it has for 109 years produced graduates of outstanding quality.  Although the smallest university in the country with 7,500 students, it boasts amongst the highest graduation and throughput rates and is currently host to six national research chairs.