What Recruiters Need To Know About Hiring In Africa

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If Africa keeps pace with its current demographic transition, it is likely that the continent’s under-18 population will reach 750 million by 2030. This would make Africa the youngest continent with the largest workforce, surpassing India and China.

The current population of the continent which stands at 1.2 billion is expected to double to 2.4 billion by 2050. If the current pace of economic development is maintained, the continent will have an immense human resource potential.

Since the last century, constant improvements in public health have led to a decrease in infant and child mortality rates, which has raised the overall life expectancy. Another factor that contributes to the high population growth is the fertility rate, which has remained elevated compared to the global standards.

The resulting demographic explosion presents Africa with a young population, which, if educated properly, will significantly contribute towards the economic growth of the continent.

While the entrepreneurial and digital revolution is on the rise in Africa, only a limited number of the population can currently thrive business and innovation. This is due to the lack of access to higher education for the majority of the population.

Without proper investment in education, it will remain difficult to address the continent’s challenges. While financing and development in technology have the potential to ensure a prosperous future, this boost can only be sustainable if there is a revolution in education as well.

The children of today need to be educated to be able to support the entrepreneurial generation of tomorrow. Africa faces tremendous challenges when it comes to reforming its education sector. While access to education has shown improvement in the past 25 years, many students are still not learning the skills needed to thrive in the future.

If the current trends continue, by 2050, approximately one-third of the continent’s one billion young people would lack basic proficiency in reading, math, and other primary subjects. This would render a large part of the continent’s human resource potential unproductive and unemployable.

According to the World Economic Forum, Africa requires at least a million academically trained research scientists to address the most urgent concerns in the areas of health, development, and energy. That being said, educating scientists and future entrepreneurs is an uphill battle for most African countries.

While technology has transformed the workplace, the primary educational curricula and quality of teachers continue to lag behind. Even some of the best schools on the continent display a lack of providing students with basic entrepreneurial skills, in terms of problem-solving and critical thinking. Unless these primary shortcomings are addressed, Africa’s potential workforce will remain unequipped to lead the kind of change expected from the continent.

The growing number of young people entering the African workforce has the potential of creating a demographic dividend that would boost economic diversification and productivity. Owing to the boom in the ICT sector, Africa’s emerging youth is full of innovative ideas which tackle social challenges.

However, the more than 10 million young people entering the job space every year largely outnumber the jobs available in both the private and public sectors. As a result, a lot of young people turn towards entrepreneurship, without however having the required skillset to succeed. This makes it more crucial than ever for the governments to invest in the development of this youth capital.

Additionally, even though more and more young Africans are venturing into entrepreneurship, without an established credit history and the business experience required by traditional investment models, their access to capital is limited.

As new investors seek to invest in Africa to diversify their portfolio, they should look at Africa’s young population which offers countless opportunities. To completely harness the potential of Africa’s youth it requires long-term investment into health, infrastructure, and digital education.

Investment in Africa’s youth further requires careful research and a visionary mindset. Investors need foresight, patience and the necessary bandwidth to accommodate equity in African startups in their portfolio. While some startups may require mentoring and training along with long-term capital, others might require seed funding to develop an innovation which typically requires short-term financing.

With the rise of web-based enterprises, investments in the youth have become easier; however, they do involve the same risks as any venture capital investment. That being said, the risk of investing in the African youth is far outweighed by the reward of bringing about a digitally and financially literate population which can create prosperity and opportunities for itself.

Despite Africa’s continuing shift from an agriculture-based to a knowledge-based economy, it still has a long way to go in terms of completely harnessing the working potential of its youth, particularly in the technological sector. To address this, some African governments have begun to employ tech-ready youth in the public sector. Kenya, for instance, with approximately 5 million of its youth unemployed, has started taking defined steps to address the skill gap.

The country’s Presidential Digital Talent Programme, for example, recruited 400 university graduates to work projects at different ministries. Further, the World Bank launched a five-year public-private partnership worth $150 million with an agenda to help 280,000 unemployed Kenyans to undergo employability training and learn more about employment opportunities.

However, African governments need to invest more if they wish the growing knowledge economy to absorb the continent’s young workforce. One way in which African countries are bridging the gap is through forming private partnerships with some of the world’s leading educational institutions.

As a result, many foreign universities have started setting up satellite campuses in different parts of the continent. For instance, a partnership between Rwanda and the Carnegie Mellon University, a top engineering school in the US, has enrolled hundreds of Rwandans in programs awarding Master’s of Science degrees in IT.

The state of knowledge accessible to the African youth needs to be addressed at the grassroots level. Most of the children in Africa’s schools do not have access to computers. If the African governments take action and introduce information technology and other industrially viable subjects in their curricula, the costs of investing in youth education in the later years will reduce considerably. This would also provide ample funds to further invest in a thoroughly knowledge-based economy.

The fast pace of growth in Africa is visible by its growing IT talent, and the continent-wide wave of transformation brought about by technology. From low-income workers buying insurance policies through mobile phones to people receiving and sending money the streets of Nairobi.

This boost in digital development is mainly spurred by the collective need to find immediate and sustainable solutions for the problems faced by the African communities. The steady growth in the number of tech incubators and hubs in recent years provided professionals with an innovative base to craft new technological applications, platforms, and ideas.

Tech hubs like MEST in Ghana, iHub in Kenya, ActivSpaces in Cameroon, among others, further stimulate the rise of digitally-savvy professionals.

IT talent in Africa is further influenced by the increasing number of mentorship programs and fellowships across the continent. Most of these programs are designed to mold the young tech-savvy African population into technology experts. Some of these programs also provide young professionals with an opportunity to be trained by world-class tech specialists.

Further, some of the fellowships are linked to global tech companies offering job opportunities and internships. In order to increase the number of young IT professionals on the continent, African governments have taken up some initiatives. By realizing the immense potential of the African youth, governments have started investing in infrastructure that supports technology to upgrade their services and governance.

Also, development partners like the World Bank are introducing policies and fundings that promote the growth of trained IT professionals. They have also announced a series of acceleration programs across the continent that are aimed at helping tech startups conceptualize and build innovative products.

These initiatives foster growth and job creation and demonstrate the degree of willingness of the government and non-government organizations. With the recent spike in successful startups, Africa continues to promise its IT professionals innumerable growth opportunities.

While Africa’s fast-growing, young population provides its leaders with an immense human resource potential, this local workforce also faces a number of employment challenges which are based on three major factors: a rapidly changing work environment, the rise of technology, and the need for attaining more skills. Adding to these problems are the issues that plague many African nations, like poverty, restricted access to education, and lack of quality institutions for higher education.

The millions of young professionals entering the market annually are faced with a private sector that is way too small to absorb them. While Africa has gotten some of the highest investment rates recently, there are still doubts about the continent’s ability to create enough jobs to meet the surge in population.

It requires the efforts of both governments as well as the private sector to offer learning and skill training opportunities to increase the employment rate of the emerging workforce. Despite the notions perpetrated by the western media about Africa being politically unstable and potentially unsafe, Africa continues to be home to one if the highest numbers of expats in the world.

Not only do they find remuneration in the form of attractive compensation packages and other allowances, but the opportunity of working in an area as culturally diverse as Africa also contributes towards Africa becoming the destination of choice.

Staffing is one of the most significant challenges faced by businesses in Africa, for all the wrong reasons. Despite the continent’s growing workforce, the lack of proper training and education renders most of them unqualified for the growing employment opportunities in the continent.

However, the challenges associated with finding and recruiting the right people have more complex patterns. Firstly, the competition for qualified local talent usually tends to be fierce. This is because not only is it easier to retain local staff, but their compensation is a lot less compared to those of expats.

Further, small businesses often struggle more and pay considerably lower salaries than larger enterprises. Secondly, the farther up the corporate ladder, the more difficult it becomes to hire appropriate talent, primarily because of the lack of senior professionals with the relevant leadership and management experience

While the lack of appropriate skills and lack of performance management acts as a hindrance to hiring the right people, the prejudices implanted by the western media also comes into play. As a result, African countries dominated by minorities and indigenous people are often hastily dismissed as lacking qualifications and therefore disregarded as potential business setup location.

Despite the skill gap in the African workforce, foreign companies prefer to hire locally as it is more cost-effective to train and retain local talent. Not only does this promise them long-term retention, but it also helps them improve the diversity in their workforce.

However, while moving up the corporate ladder, retaining talent becomes difficult. Not only is it expensive to train people for more complex and demanding roles, but the lack of skilled talent also makes it difficult to retain them, as they are quickly drawn out by other companies offering better benefits.

In such situations, foreign companies are left with little choice but to send their own people who promise long-term retention. As a result of this skill gap and the fierce competition that comes with it, Africa is home to one of the largest number of expats in the world.

The dynamic business environment in Africa is rapidly attracting a rising number of multinational corporations. However, headhunters and recruitment firms which cater to them face challenges when it comes to getting skilled talent, particularly in the tech sector.

The rapid economic growth on the continent has created a growing gap between the demand and supply of qualified talent. This has become an everyday reality for both local and foreign enterprises and is expected to increase even more over the course of the next 10 to 15 years.

This skill gap is becoming more and more apparent as foreign enterprises set up their offices in different parts of the continent. At the same time, these organizations are also rivaled by local businesses in their ability to attract meaningful talent.

When it comes to the tech sector, the deficiency is even more evident as the local people rarely have the resources to train themselves in skills that would qualify them for securing a job in the tech sector. While both local and foreign enterprises are taking initiatives, they still fall short of overcoming this skill gap.

In an age of these growing talent shortages, headhunters are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain talent, particularly for senior positions. They need more than just attractive packages; good talent also favors empowering organizations which provide them with opportunities for rapid career advancements.

Despite the proliferation of African job recruitment sites and the African diaspora presenting a vital source of talent, headhunters and recruitment firms still find it difficult to tap into the skill.

When it comes to bridging the skill gap, it is essential for firms in Africa to understand that the tools used by Silicon Valley and other top destinations in hiring and retaining top talent will not necessarily work in Africa.

Africa’s limited talent pool, particularly in tech and leadership positions requires reforms to be made which are in line with the expectations of its workforce. Companies in Africa, both local and foreign, need to address these challenges by investing in their talent pipeline, encouraging mobility among staff members, and developing in-house leaders.

Companies can also form partnerships for leadership development to achieve some scale in skilled talent. On the question of attracting African expats back to the continent, companies need to understand where most of the expats currently reside, and what would motivate them to return. Africa’s talent problem is further exacerbated by the worldwide entrepreneurial revolution, which has caused many talented members of the

African workforce to start their own companies as the ultimate path to success. Many professionals in the major African economies consider entrepreneurship as a more desirable career choice.

Several factors like the promotion of entrepreneurship by the local governments, low cost of starting digital companies, venture capitalists expanding investments, amongst others have motivated ambitious and talented young people to become their own bosses.

While at one end this leads to the creation of job opportunities for the mostly unemployed graduate youth, on the other end it also contributes to the challenge for companies to fill their vacancies with suitable candidates. Other factors which prevent people from taking up a job in Africa are political and civil unrest and poor remuneration packages.

Many local enterprises are not competent in offering competitive remuneration packages and other attractive benefits. As a result, there is a talent drain as highly skilled and talented employees instead prefer to work in developed countries in America, Europe, and Asia. As much as 30% of the skilled African workforce work in foreign countries which provide them with better value for their work.

In addition to this, political and civil unrest in certain countries, further instigate their citizens to leave and work in a more stable and peaceful environment. The emerging markets coupled with ecological and cultural diversity and lush landscape make Africa a popular relocation option for expats from around the world.

Be it short-term projects with the likes of Oxfam, UN, and Red Cross, or permanent plans with multinationals that promise attractive perks and better pay, expats relocate to the continent across domains of business, education, trade, and sustainable development. While the best places to live and work are subjective to individual preferences, many expats are attracted by the cheaper costs of living.

Be it trending travel destinations or ease of life, expats find particularly easy to move to and live in Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Morocco, Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria and Namibia.


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