Antoinette Fourie, a Namibian-born chartered accountant working in England, gives strong insight into why many Namibian professionals are working abroad while their skills are much needed in Namibia. She spoke to Toivo Ndjebela.
Q: What, in your view, keeps Namibian professionals outside the country – is it lack of opportunities in Namibia or just general unwillingness to work here?
A: I don’t think it is an unwillingness to work in Namibia. I think Namibia is a small economy, and a bit isolated from the bigger markets so in my view people working overseas are doing it more because of the opportunities available and to see a bit more of the world.
Q: What do you do? You currently work and what are your qualifications?
A: I work in England as an audit manager. I am a chartered accountant, and completed my articles in Namibia.
Q: In your case, what is your reason for working abroad instead of Namibia?
A: Before England I went to Canada for a short-term secondment. I loved getting to know a new country and the lessons I learned, so I decided to move to the UK afterwards. My main motivation was the opportunity to travel (and it is a lot easier to do when earning pounds). Now that I am here I also see the value of working in a country like this – the technology, resources and training opportunities are amazing, and I still feel challenged every day at work.
Q: What should be done to ensure such Namibians, including yourself, return home and plough their skills in the local market?
A: The UK is great at looking after its employees – or in my experience at least. We are able to do some agile working, buy more leave days in a year, employer pension contributions are great, public transport is working and all your medical expenses are covered by your monthly NHS contribution. I would probably return if companies in Namibia adopt new trends in the business place and realise that employees are looking for more flexibility in the workplace and that performance should be measured at output and not at hours spent behind a desk. I also like what I am reading in local newspapers about how the government seems to be taking steps to address corruption issues and look into matters that impact the youth (high housing prices, etc). If that continues Namibia remains a very attractive option to return to. If that does not draw me back, the biltong, beer and open spaces might!