Fighting the Brain Drain: How African Companies manage their Talents

While Western countries like the U.S. and many EU member states are still struggling with the recent recession, the so-called emerging countries are catching up economically. In addition to the BRICS countries, African countries show high growth rates and both technical and human resources are required to expand business. In this context, the auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers has just published the detailed 3rd edition of their “African Business Agenda”. PwC interviewed 301 CEOs in 19 African countries about their personal economic perceptions, their business and related challenges. One chapter of the survey is dedicated to African talent management, an important issue for 84% of the interviewed CEOs. More so, as African countries do not want to become another international workbench but rather see their future as equal partners and a place for homemade innovations and developments. Hence a number of African companies invest heavily in their talents, e.g. through training of their future managers.

Skill shortages or brain drain can be severe barriers to economic development, according to many African CEOs. To respond to these trends companies look at a variety of tools. First and foremost, their own talent pools and schools are established and nurtured, like for instance a Senegalese campus by mobile telecom operator Orange or the Dangote Academy set up by the Nigeria-based industrial conglomerate Dangote Group. Both institutions focus on training managers in operations across the continent and develop their technical and vocational skills. Attracting African expatriates and reversing the brain drain is a second promising approach for many companies. They actively engage in searching those talents to offer them bright perspectives, for they appreciate their acquaintance with international standards combined with knowledge of the local African cultures. “You can’t put a price tag on that value”, Anita Omoile, CEO of the Nigerian Deep Blue Energy Services, says. She also expects the former expats to rise the bar for everyone and the Rwanda Development Board asks freshly recruited expats to work as mentors and coaches for at least two years. Hence international experience is leveraged by African talent managers.

The fierce competition for the best talents also led to a focus on talent retention. The corporate culture needs to work as an incentive to stay with the company for a longer period. A competitive salary is only one aspect among many including “career plans and a participative social climate”, as a PwC executive states. The diversification of rewards and benefits matters a lot to the new generation, according to Pascal Lesoinne, managing director of Tanzania Portland Cement Company, they differ “from the older employees who think that one size fits all for rewards, as in everyone should be rewarded the same.” African CEOs also try to include lower management ranks in high level decision making. Some initiatives foster soft skills or motivate employees to assume responsibility in their own projects.