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Tech Safari Takes: South Africa is open for digital nomads

But only the ones with a lot of money

Welcome to Tech Safari Takes!

Each Friday, we’ll look at an interesting story that went down in African Tech this week and give you the quick ‘Tech Safari Take’.

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Let’s get into this week’s take.

Last week, South Africa introduced a new Digital Nomad Visa (DNV).

This sounds like great news, but we have questions.

Like, who’s this really for? And why does it exclude most digital nomads?

Let’s delve into it. (If you know, you know)

The Story

South Africa introduced the DNV last week, which allows remote workers to live and work in the country for up to three years.

But there are conditions:

  • You need to have a job that's bringing in at least $53,000 a year.

  • A company must officially employ you — so freelancers are out, even though they make up 43% of digital nomads.

  • And if you hang around longer than six months, you're on the hook for income tax.

The move was welcomed by some, but not many people were thrilled.

We’ll tell you why, but first…

The Context

The whole "work from anywhere" trend hit its peak during COVID.

Locked down by a raging pandemic, millions of people turned their homes into offices.

Then post-pandemic, remote work stuck around, and it hyped up digital nomadism.

Digital nomads make the world their office and travel while they work.

By the end of 2022, 35 million people identified as digital nomads, and that number has now grown to 40 million.

For Africa though, digital nomadism opened a new door for long-stay tourism.

Africa is becoming the ‘it’ location for tourism thanks to world-famous attractions you can't find anywhere else:

Egypt’s pyramids, Rwanda’s mountain gorillas, and Kenya’s wildlife safaris, to name a few.

Sights like this are a digital nomad’s dream.

And cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Nairobi are magnets for digital nomads.

Remote workers, earning in strong currencies, find that their bucks stretch longer here.

And when they hang around, they pump money into local economies.

They spend on accommodation, food, transport, and leisure.

So, African countries are hopping on the trend and rolling out special visas to lure more of them in.

Namibia launched Africa’s first digital nomad visa in 2022.

Seychelles, Cape Verde, and Mauritius all hopped onboard shortly after, and now, South Africa has joined the gang.

But their move has got people talking.

Some believe it'll boost tourism, which contributes $10 billion to the South African economy and employs 9.2% of its people.

Others feel digital nomads might hike up living costs for locals in the cities they flock to, while some think the visa changes nothing.

But we’re asking a different question: who are these visas actually for?

The Tech Safari Take

This visa was certainly not made for African remote workers.


A $53,000 annual pay requirement is way out of touch with their reality.

Talent is “cheaper” here, so African remote workers are paid location-based salaries.

Their paycheck depends on where they live - not how skilled they are.

Putting up a high fence for a digital nomad visa shuts out millions of Africans who work remotely.

For instance: Only 25% of the people who moved to the UK via the global talent visa earn more than $53k.

Around 75% of these migrants would not have made it to South Africa.

On these rules, it’s easier to migrate to the UK via the global talent visa than to live in South Africa as a digital nomad.

Source: Nexford University

In fact, most South Africans would not even qualify for this visa based on these rules.

It seems the main targets of these digital nomad visas don’t live in Africa.

They live in countries like the US, Singapore, Australia, and parts of Europe where salaries are much higher.

Average monthly salary in developed countries. Source: World of Statistics

While you can argue that these nomads can spend more, their dollars also come with worries of higher living costs for locals.

And to crown it all, South Africa is potentially missing out on thousands of African digital nomads right next door across the continent.

What do you think of South Africa’s digital nomad visa?

Hit reply and let us know.

Here’s what we’re reading this week

💸 More than half the startup unicorns in the world were founded by immigrants. Find out who they are here.

💡 Sure, you’ve heard of electric cars, but what about electric rickshaws? They’re taking over India. Read about it here.

🤯 WeWork’s founder is trying to get his company back for only $500m. Will he pull it off? Find out.

Tweet of the week

The “delve” is in the details. 🤣

That’s a wrap! Hope you enjoyed our Tech Safari Take.

If you did, shoot us a quick email and let us know 🙏🏾

Until next week.

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