There are less than 100 training establishments meeting international standards on the African continent. This means around one school for every 11.2 million inhabitants. Among these establishments only 13 featured in the rankings of the world’s top 950 schools in 2013. All of Africa is facing a shortage of managers. But international management training is not enough to make a manager operational in Africa; ground -level knowledge, an understanding of regional particularities and a cultural connection with local operational teams are all essential for successful management. Although economic development provides the perfect environment for career development, the pitfalls of political instability and corruption are awaiting the unwary.
African candidates trained in major international management schools are much in demand for groups established in Africa. More and more often, these candidates are saying that they are ready to return to their country of origin, since Africa offers them greater and quicker promotion opportunities than they would enjoy in Europe. All sectors are expanding. The dynamic economic climate is a major motivating factor for many professionals, keen to take part in this growth. African managers in their thirties told Forbes magazine in October 2013 that breaking through the glass ceiling seemed easier in Africa. Apart from personal ambition, closeness to relatives and facilities for child minding attract young high-flyers wanting to start a family.
But African profiles, so highly sought-after, do not necessarily meet the criteria for a position in Africa. When a candidate has not maintained close links with his or her country of origin for example, the culture gap can be just as wide as for a candidate coming from another continent. Western consumer habits and the higher salaries typical of enhanced local contracts can be very detrimental to social relationships. In order to reduce pressure from his or her family remaining in the home country while the manager develops a career abroad, certain companies offer African candidates enhanced local contracts to work in a neighbouring country. However, the culture of the neighbouring country could be wildly different. ‘Africanness’ does not automatically guarantee success. International candidates having already worked in Africa are also a rich source of necessary skills, but can mean an important investment for a company.
Executive Search in Africa: finding a rare pearl for each vacancy.
For each senior management vacancy, clearly defined abilities, know-how and social skills are necessary – in addition to appropriate training and knowledge of the county’s culture. These criteria mean the head-hunter must have a solid working knowledge of the environment of each country – both at a geopolitical and at a local level. Certain urban areas may well be modern and very dynamic (Casablanca, Abidjan, Accra, etc.), but not all positions allow a manager to settle in one of these centres. In fact, the oil and mining sectors, as well as plantation positions, will need the successful candidate to be based in remote sites sometimes located several hours from a major city. This situation is not always easy to manage at a family level. A candidate used to the comfort of a city office, married with two children, faces the serious risk of upsetting the balance of his or her life with such a radical change, which is already going to be challenging enough. Thus, contracts are negotiated case by case, according to the living and working conditions, the level of separation, number of days away and days home and the seniority of the candidate. Each vacancy requires not only finding a candidate perfectly suited to the assignment but also one able to adapt to the very variable living conditions of the sector.
With a team of 4 senior consultants based in Paris, all experts of the Middle East & Africa region, Marion Navarre, MD of Morgan Philips Middle East & Africa, supports international companies and pan-African groups in their recruitment strategies.
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