Making the most of your people in Africa

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Africa’s dynamic growth prospects have placed the continent firmly on the investment radar of many multinationals. Having the right people available on the ground is critical and companies that can effectively manage their talent will be able to capitalise on the African growth story. This is the message emerging from the 2012 Mobility Conference hosted by Ernst & Young.

The firm’s Africa People Leader, Seshni Samuel, says that young recruits are increasingly attracted to working across Africa. “It fits in with their need for a new and challenging work experience and for being part of an organisation that is making a social contribution to the economic development of the continent.” For older, more skilled candidates, working in Africa often taps into a desire to leave a legacy and to be part of something bigger. 

Of course, given the global war for talent it is not always possible for companies to find the right people at the right time. This has given rise to the need for a more imaginative approach to recruitment. “The Diaspora, those who have left Africa but who want to come back, is becoming an increasingly important talent pool.”

There is another, relatively new, talent source, being employees from companies in developed economies. “Multinationals in mature markets are seeking to diversify their thinking and are sending people to African countries so as to acquire an “emerging market mind-set” and they are also actively recruiting people from African economies to bring this mind-set to mature markets.”

The human capital deficit has also given rise to a longer term vision of talent management. The people who leave a company can be just as important as its current employees, says Samuel. “Former employees can partner with your organisation in numerous and invaluable ways, so that the talent you have developed is not necessarily lost when an employee leaves. The focus shifts to maintaining long term relationships with talented people, rather than just retaining them as employees.”

Samuel says there is no doubt that putting quality people on the ground in Africa has become a strategic imperative for many companies. “How this is achieved may differ, but in all cases an important mind shift needs to take place. Time spent working in Africa needs to become integral not only to the way a company does business but also to an employee’s progress within it.”