Talent Scarcity in Emerging Industries and How to Overcome It

Emerging and rapidly developing industries and sectors, such as Technologies, Real Estate and Renewables are fast becoming strong contributors to the success of economies across the African continent.  Critical to their continued success is the human capital driving the expansion, but this talent is in scarce supply on the continent, especially if your company is supporting localisation strategies and is keen to attract local nationals in key leadership positions.

Well established sectors such as FMCG have been developing local talent for a considerable time and, as these industries have matured, the investment in building local capability over the years means that many of the senior leadership positions are now able to be filled by local nationals with relative ease.

This is not the case in the emerging sectors which have yet to fully transition away from a reliance on international candidates due the scarcity of relevant experience at the level / size required.  A prime example is within Real Estate where companies in Africa are now planning high profile and sizeable developments which need to be driven by leaders with a proven experience of delivering similar scale developments.  To find projects of a similar scale to those planned, it is often necessary to leave the African continent and look internationally in global locations to find candidates with the required skills.

As the Real Estate industry expands and the scale of projects increases across Africa, the opportunity for African nationals to rapidly progress their careers within this, and other emerging sectors, will become more and more common.  It will be critical during this period of growth that companies support local capability building in order to succession plan effectively and ‘home grow’ their business leaders of the future.

The historic reliance on ex-pats will eventually dwindle through to the rise of both indigenous and international companies committed to developing this local talent and nurturing career development which in turn breeds corporate loyalty.  Furthermore, these high calibre nationals are generally not actively seeking new positions and can often remain ‘under the radar’, unable to be accessed through advertising or from local recruitment firms working purely on a contingent basis.  The result is a common misconception that ‘there’s no good talent in Africa’ – this is simply not the case anymore.

However, it is the case, that to find the best talent, companies need to take a more aggressive and proactive approach in order to attract the best African nationals for new projects and expansion.  At the same time they will need to support strong talent retention strategies within their own organisation to ensure this investment in acquiring and developing good talent is not lost because other companies poach them!

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As a business Executives in Africa are passionate about finding the highest calibre African talent for our clients, a passion which can at times present a challenge to identify the best local talent in a vast array of ex-pat candidates.  But it is not a challenge we can’t overcome.

We recently conducted a mandate where, owing to the previous reliance on ex-pats for senior positions across Africa, the quantity of high calibre nationals with the desired level of specific technical experience on a pan African basis, was found to be much lower than expected when we mapped the market.  The reality was that the most senior position in this sector was still held, almost without exception, by an expatriate.

In cases like this, our consultative approach is critical to educate our clients of the talent landscape, and to help the client decide the right course of action.  In this instance the client decided to stick by their localisation strategy and downgraded their expectations on the level of candidate, instead committing to take a local candidate but an individual who would grow into the more senior role with the right support.

Equally, our credibility as an international Search Firm can be critical to getting access to these scarce local candidates who have often not previously been on the receiving end of what can be perceived as the flattery of being headhunted.  A call from one of our UK based and highly experienced Search Consultants is rarely ignored we can be very persuasive in initiating conversations which result in establishing an interest in hearing more about an opportunity, even when candidates were not previously considering a move.

In order to ensure continued success of your business, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss our experiences in the complex African market and how our successful, proactive approach in identifying, attracting and assessing the highest calibre candidates can be beneficial to supporting the growth of your team.

By Stuart Denson, Executive Search Consultant, sd@executivesinafrica.com

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