Yendor Felgate – Emergence Consulting
The traditional wisdom on Africa is that there is a one way passage for talent to more ‘developed markets’. Experience suggests that a continuous ‘brain drain’ is occurring, where talented professionals are being ‘denuded’ from home markets, exacerbating an already tenuous scarce skill situation.
Change is Coming
Recently I hosted a talent management workshop in Ghana, where I am starting to see signs that things may be changing. This is not say that the ‘war for scarce skills’ does not exist or that the predominant trend has changed, but rather we are seeing a more complex picture emerging.
The change may have started even before the impetus of the global financial services meltdown, if anecdotal evidence from headhunters and resourcing specialists working in Africa are accurate. Ghana may be a useful case in point to begin to understand the emerging changes in talent behaviour and the resultant complexities for business in Africa.
Ghana is a democratic West African country that has been independent for over 50 years. Traditionally the country has been economically reliant on commodities and natural resources, though is diversifying rapidly into financial services and telecoms. Recent trends suggest an increasing level of foreign direct investment and interest from the region in the opportunities offerred by Ghana.
In the past, global education and career opportunities were valued over local organisations and career paths. The first change to this dynamic was the rapid expansion of Nigerian banks and the telecom revolution in Ghana. Both sectors are large consumers of talent and ‘overheated’ the local and expatriate skill markets, largely by paying aggressively.
The second major trend is the exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs. This has attracted interested from first and second generation Ghanians based outside the country. Initially, this took the form of direct investment, but is increasingly involving Ghanians leaving corporate roles outside Ghana, to take up local opportunties.
The final trend is the global instability in ‘developed’ job markets, where many Ghanians are now looking to return to corporate and professional roles within the country. The perceived ‘gap’ between global and local has diminshed significantly.
The net result is that many corporates in Ghana are able to compete for talent more effectively than before. I think this is the real change – global players may now not be the automatic default choice for African talent. African business has a window of opportunity they can exploit. However, the complexity lies in the detail.
The challenge is that good people have many opportunities both locally and regionally they can explore in corporates and on the entrepreneurial front. My sense is that this has less to do with money, but the personal connection people make to these opportunities. In my language, an holistic employee value proposition is more important the ever.
What About Pay Levels?
Pay levels amongst leading employers in Ghana are competitive, but relatively low when compared to more developed countries, and also to many countries in Africa. As you can see from the illustration, total annual compensation in Cedi ranges from about 5,000 to 20,000 Cedi for support staff positions, while pay for professionals varies from approximately 24,000 to 80,000 Cedi.
Birches Group LLC Survey of Leading Employers – September, 2008
The difficulty most Ghanian businesses face is that they are not used to working with the intangible concept of the employee value proposition and tend to want to compete on remuneration, whilst keeping relatively conservative management practices. This is changing, but I hope it is sufficiently rapid to fully utilise what may be a very narrow period of talent parity.
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