Moving (or Returning) to Africa for Work

 Patrick Gaincko is a consultant who does research and writes about African consumers. His website GainXperience offers on-the-ground insights into African consumer needs, aspirations, behaviours and trends. The Full post was originally published on JobsnetAfrica, 2017.

Adaptability, agility, problem-solving, and resilience, are highly demanded skills by companies willing to win in an uncertain, globalised, complex world. But it has become extremely difficult for professionals, entrepreneurs and leaders to acquire or sharpen these qualities in post industrial, highly sophisticated, well oiled environments.

Consequently, just like elite athletes go to Kenyan hills to train with and learn from the world’s best runners, a growing number of professionals and entrepreneurs look at Africa as a key passage to join what a Harvard Business Review article calls the “global elite”.

At a recent Africa business event on the US East Coast, I was asked to weigh in on various ‘Moving to Africa’ questions. One member of the audience talked about her project of launching an artisanal brewery in Mombasa Kenya, another had the idea of producing premium cocoa in Ghana, another was preparing for the second round of interviews for a senior role at a Marrakech Morocco based world top five hotel.

What’s striking with global professionals is that their determination to go overseas remains unscathed in the face of the negative Africa press coverage. To them, no figure, no narrative can diminish the appeal of African opportunities.

Long are gone, it seems, the days when the only ones heading to Africa for work were the ‘Africanists’- relief and aid professionals, war correspondents, missionaries, mercenaries, and scientists of rare disciplines.

Wearing several hats is also what drives another breed of global professionals. They may be ‘supply chain manager’ or ‘sales director’, but they feel boxed in by these titles. They want to exploit the full range of their competences through multiple ventures. They want to create value for themselves.

Today in the West, a growing number of highly qualified professionals and entrepreneurs across sectors from manufacturing, consulting, transport to agriculture, telecoms, and energy, see Africa as a promising destination. In that crowd, some are culturally attached to the Continent and want to be an active part of the current socio-economic change. Others want to gain the international experience and connections that will help them access executive education programs in world-leading universities and top roles in multinational companies and organisations.

In fact, there is a varied range of reasons why Africa is poised to play a greater role in the Future of Work. Here is a selection.

The increased share of developing economies in the international business in recent years — in the last decade for example, it has gone from 33 percent to 42 percent in exports across the world according to the World Trade Organization 2016 Review. This has in turn generated a high demand for global professionals. The number of people working in foreign subsidiaries and remote outposts has upped from 25 million to more than 81 million.

The ‘Africa Needs Locals’ goal drummed up by a growing pack of companies. Heineken, a world top three beer maker, want 70 percent of its leadership to be Africa-based by 2020. “I believe in Africa by Africans” said Kevin Ashley in a recent discussion. As the founder of Java House, Africa’s largest chain of coffee shops, he made ‘100 percent African from top to bottom’ the cornerstone of the company’s success.

The ‘Talents for Africa: Wanted’ drive which sees aggressive efforts by a coalition made of specialized head-hunters such as Homecoming Revolution and JobnetAfrica, dedicated events such as the annual ‘Career Fair for Swiss Companies and African Talents’, online platforms such as Talent2Africa, and entrepreneurship initiatives like We Think Africa and Afropreneur.



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