Investing In Africa: The Talent Gap Challenge


Enriched with so many resources, Africa offers a wide range of possibilities in every business sector to prospective investors. For long, Africa has been tagged a paradox for having so much at its disposal yet stuck in a quagmire of lack and deteriorating civil governance. However, Africa’s economy continues to grow.

Kenya and Nigeria were listed among other countries believed to be the fastest growing economies of 2015 in the Bloomberg report. Nonetheless, a problem that is not entirely new has emerged– the talent gap problem. Investors, especially foreign, are having difficulties finding the required talent to carry out jobs effectively. The demand for skills seem to be outweighing the supply, with most of the locals not being fully competent to perform critical or specialized roles.

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In 2012, at an Ernst & Young strategic forum that held in South Africa, it was predicted that as Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in Africa continues to increase, there will be a cutback on the supply of talent. As the demand exceeds supply, the price/cost of talent will increase, and will continue to do so as far as there is a shortage of skills. This has proved true. The high cost of talent, especially managerial skills doesn’t seem to have solved this problem. In fact, it worsens it by posing a threat to retainment, as these workers are off to wherever might offer them paychecks that are fatter than their previous.

Firms are coming up with ingenious ways to bridge the talent gap. Some believe in recruiting Africans in diaspora, as they are highly educated and possess the required skills to carry out critical roles. While some researches have proven that a number of Africans are willing to return home to execute these roles, many are not optimistic. In fact, a recent survey by Russel Reynolds Associates on three of Africa’s most prominent economies, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa proves that not too many Africans in diaspora are ecstatic about the possibility of returning home to work.

With these statistics, some firms believe in setting up a talent development program. These programs are meant to train local talents and retain them, through mentoring and coaching. Notwithstanding, the same survey reveals that  “coaching” locals in certain African countries like Nigeria merely means receiving a “formalized feedback” on their performance. Some firms provide informal training; when an expat is employed to fill high-level positions, the local employees are expected to be attentive and also learn a thing or two from the experienced expat.

In summary, the talent gap in Africa is hinged on the fact that Africa’s educational institutions are below par. Although an average school does not necessarily provide its students with precise skills set for jobs– often missing out on soft skills– Africa’s situation seems to be worse. In a Financial Times survey of the top 100 MBA programs in the world, only the University of Cape Town in South Africa made it to the list. It is of little wonder that Africans go abroad to further their education, having gained such useful skills that might prove important to moving their country forward, refuse to return because of the situation in their countries.

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