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If we introduce the digital nomad visa, proactive measures must be taken to level the playing field and ensure equal opportunities for all. Picture: 123RF/PAVEL ILYUKHIN
If we introduce the digital nomad visa, proactive measures must be taken to level the playing field and ensure equal opportunities for all. Picture: 123RF/PAVEL ILYUKHIN

Remote work is gaining popularity, allowing individuals to combine travelling the globe with maintaining full-time employment. And in exciting news for digital nomads, SA will launch a new digital nomad visa featuring two categories: a remote working visa and a critical skills visa.

These visas aim to attract remote workers and skilled professionals globally as part of SA’s efforts to position itself as a global hub. Once put into action, this move would establish the country as only the fifth African nation offering this kind of visa to people who spend long periods working in different countries.

While this may sound promising, what effects will this development have on our local coding community? Beyond the immediate economic benefits, we must carefully assess how this decision could affect our local coding talent. 

Digital nomads, with their diverse skill sets and global perspectives, undoubtedly bring value to SA’s tech landscape. Their presence contributes to the local economy, driving revenue generation through spending on various services and stimulating job creation across sectors such as hospitality, tourism and technology. So, too, does their entrepreneurial spirit within this community act as a catalyst for innovation, fostering a vibrant start-up ecosystem that enhances SA’s reputation as a tech hub.

However, with these advantages also come challenges, especially regarding the potential displacement of our local coding talent. Digital nomads earn higher salaries and drive up living expenses in city centres such as Cape Town and Johannesburg.

This results in higher rents and food costs, pushing locals to move to the outskirts and spend hours in traffic to get to their place of work. Because of this decrease in quality of life, lucrative opportunities abroad or even just working remotely for an international company lure many skilled coders.

This leads to a depletion of our pool of talented coders, as local businesses find it hard to match the salary packages offered by international rivals.

Taxation policies

If we introduce the digital nomad visa, proactive measures must be taken to level the playing field and ensure equal opportunities for all. One approach is through taxation policies that aim to redistribute wealth.

This will help ease the strain on local coding communities that are being priced out of their homes because of inflated rental and living costs brought on by digital nomads. By implementing fair and transparent tax structures, we can balance the economic benefits of digital nomadism with the need to protect the interests of our citizens.

Local companies will need to step up and adapt their job offerings to vie with attractive, international-salary packages. Offering benefits such as flexible work hours and a supportive company culture that can foster a sense of belonging that transcends financial incentives will go a long way to retaining talent. SA companies should also look at attracting new talent by providing access to on-the-job training, free online learning and mentorship programmes.

Ultimately, the key to harnessing the potential of digital nomadism lies in collaboration. We should encourage local coders to attend industry events, workshops and mentorship programmes, where they can network and exchange knowledge with one another.

Being able to bounce ideas and learn from one another would mean that coders can work together, rather than feel threatened by one another. Indeed, the digital nomad visa introduction poses both benefits and drawbacks for SA. While it brings economic opportunities and fosters innovation, it also poses challenges such as gentrification and talent retention for local companies.

By implementing strategic policies and encouraging a collaborative culture, we can successfully navigate this change and build towards a future where both local and international talent coexist harmoniously.

• Hlophe is CEO at Zaio.

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