Growing South African community praises Isle of Man opportunities

Vanessa Naude and children
Image caption,Vanessa Naude and her family moved to the Isle of Man in 2021

By Ashlea Tracey

BBC News, Isle of Man

Safety and business opportunities are behind a rise in relocations from South African to the Isle of Man, members of the growing community have said.

The 2021 census showed around 1,200 people from the country had travelled to the island to live.

But Vanessa Naude from IOM Relocate said “anecdotally” there were “a lot more” South Africans on the island.

A festival celebrating the culture and music of South Africa held earlier in the year saw all 800 tickets sell out.

Ms Naude, a relocation advisor and organiser of the inaugural SAFFA Festival, moved to the island 2021.

She said it had been “a risk” to disrupt her children’s school careers at the ages of 13 and 16, but they were now “thriving” having previously been “terrified of the crime and unrest” in her home country.

Ms Naude also said she noticed a rise in interest from South African people looking to relocate for work, which had been increased by the government’s efforts to promote business links between the nations.

Roelf Odendaal speaking at an Indaba
Image caption,Roelf Odendaal is keen to foster business relations between the countries

Roelf Odendaal, founder of Isle of Man Indaba, said roadshows in South Africa which included representatives from government agency Finance Isle of Man, had seen “mutual benefits” for both economies.

The island’s profile had been “lifted” because of the trips, which highlighted that the needs of some South African nationals with “feelings of insecurity” about the stability of their home country could be addressed using Manx services.

The wealth management consultant, who relocated almost two decades ago, said it was still “very hard” not being close to family, but the openness of the Manx community should be celebrated as “you don’t find that anywhere else”.

Suellen Daniel
Image caption,Suellen Daniel has called the Isle of Man home for seven years

Suellen Daniel’s farmstead business has been bolstered by support from the Department for Enterprise, which has allowed for the purchase of polytunnels to grow a South African vegetable called gem squash.

The new structures are set to provide space to increase production in the 2024 growing season from 1,000 to 10,000.

Originally from Durban, Ms Daniel said the Manx government had been a “real force” in aiding the expansion of Sulby River Farm, which also sees the family keep Loaghtan sheep and produce honey.

Gem squash veg growing
Image caption,The gem squash is a popular vegetable in South Africa

British-born Martin Whiteman, who lived in South Africa for decades, moved to the Isle of Man to be closer to relatives, after a break-in at his family home.

The shoe designer said: “South Africa is a country I absolutely love… but the safety of the island is amazing”.

Mr Whiteman created a ceramics studio in 2002 in Castletown using the support of a government small business scheme.

His wife June Whiteman said it had been a lifeline and “becoming integrated into Manx society” had had “such a big impact on us”.

The Whiteman family
Image caption,The Whiteman family moved to the island 22 years ago

Ms Whiteman, lead of the Isle of Man Chapter of the South African Chamber of Commerce, said she believed relocations were likely to increase further due to the business opportunities available.

The Manx government had some “very generous” schemes to help traders develop and “that’s the sort of message that can be transferred through the network”, she said.

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