Report from Mombasa – Africa Forum 2009

Warren Heaps photo

Author:
Warren Heaps – Birches Group LLC

Many of you will already know that last week, the second Africa Forum conference, sponsored by the African Development Bank, Birches Group LLC and ORC Worldwide, was held at the lovely Sarova Whitesands Resort and Spa in Mombasa, Kenya.  The conference was attended by representatives from leading employers in Africa, with delegates from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa.  I was lucky to be one of the organizers and presenters at the conference, so I thought I would share some of the proceedings with you.

Keynote Address
The conference opened with a wonderful conversation with Dr. Sipho Moyo, Residential Representative for the AfDB in Tanzania.  Dr. Moyo spoke about what managers look for from HR in terms of support, ideas and insight.

Overview of African Markets
The keynote address was followed by an overview of African markets.  The presentation included statistics capturing the impact of the global economic crisis on Africa, through reduced GDP growth rates across the region, higher inflation (double digit levels in over 25 countries), and reduced trade.  There was also a discussion about the nature of the labour markets in Africa, and the key role leading employers across all sectors, including international public sector organizations, play in the market.  Finally, some summary market data was shared for all countries in Africa, with a special look at Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi and Nigeria.

African Cafe I
The next session was a series of small group discussions.  Three topics were selected by the group – Market Intelligence, Impact of the Global Economic Downturn, and Incentive Pay.  Each topic was featured as a discussion group, and  participants rotated through all three topics, thus having a chance to participate in all of them.  These were lively, interactive discussions, where participants were able to raise issues, share their experiences and learn from the experience of others.

Focus on East Africa
Since the event was held in Kenya, we turned next to an in-depth look at the East African market, focused on Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.  There was comparative data to highlight the similarities and also the unique features of each labour market in the region.

Building a Pan-African Workforce
A lively discussion followed led by Awinja Wameyo of AfDB, about the challenges the bank faces in building a workforce for their operations across 25 countries in Africa.  Topics of particular interest to the group included recruitment of professionals from the African diaspora, and the desire for diversity, and how best to achieve it.

Market Intelligence
Day Two began with an in-depth look at market intelligence, and how the Birches Group surveys are tailored to address many of the challenges faced in small, volatile markets, with such a wide range of practices.  Birches Group staff demonstrated the Indigo survey portal for the group as well.

We also spoke about the comparative framework — how to best determine the right approach to matching positions in the African market to survey benchmarks consistently.

African Cafe II
Next we had another series of discussions on topics chosen by those in attendance at the Forum:  Intra-Regional Assignments, Performance Management and Talent Sourcing.  It was a wonderful chance to share insights and learn from each other.

Untying Knots
Following lunch, we kicked off the final afternoon of the Forum with a stimulating presentation about Performance Management and Pay Design.  Gary McGillicuddy spoke about the Birches Group Community approach to performance management, which uses multi-rater feedback and the answers to three simple questions to manage evaluations effectively and efficiently.  Gary also spoke about the “Wedding Cake” of pay design, demonstrating that in an organization, time-based, competency-based and performance-based compensation systems can coexist to drive overall organizational effectiveness.

Employer Branding
The closing presentation was an overview of employer branding.  Curtis Grund of ORC Worldwide shared his personal experiences as well as a summary of the leading practices in employer branding.  Curtis also looked at some employer website to highlight best practices.

In Summary
The Africa Forum 2009 was a great opportunity for human resources professionals in Africa to discuss critical issues, learn about trends, and most importantly, share information with each other and form what we hope will be an ongoing network for sharing and collaboration.

We expect that Africa Forum will be repeated, next time in Southern Africa.  Stay tuned for more information about next year’s Forum.  We are grateful, also, to the African Development Bank, for lending it’s name and providing resources to make the Forum a reality.

Conference Presentations
If you were unable to attend the Africa Forum, but would like to receive copies of the presentation materials, please let me know by using the Contact Us link.  Just indicate your interest in receiving the Africa Forum materials.

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8 responses to “Report from Mombasa – Africa Forum 2009

  1. I only wish I had been there. The experience sounds incredibly informative and stimulating from every perspective. Congratulations to all the participants.

  2. Miguel Duarte Ferreira

    Congratulations Warren. It really seems to have been a great event with lots of positive outputs. In particular I am interested to know some more about the ‘Marketing Intelligence’ subject presented and discussed along the event. What can you share on top of your post? Thank you in advance.

  3. Miguel,

    We discussed “Market Intelligence” in the context of compensation and benefits survey data, and how to use that data effectively to manage employee compensation programs.

    Would be happy to chat with you offline if you would like more information.

    Warren

  4. Hello Warren
    The post sounds great. I wish you success.
    Wish I had been there. Africa would be one place where everyone would head to soon.

    Zia

  5. Miguel Duarte Ferreira

    Thank you Warren. Your feedback is enough. I was trying to undersant the context where ‘MI’ was used. Cheers,
    Miguel

  6. Hello Warren
    I have read your report with interest! Also have discovered I know nothing about African markets:-)/:-( What do managers expect from their HR colleagues? Do these expectations differ from what managers in Europe look for? What are major problems African HR managers are facing now? What instruments do they use to motivate employees?
    Would be grateful if you could advise me either the conference materials or any other source to cure my ignorance.
    Victoria

  7. I think this was quite innovative. I missed it and will certainly participate in the future forums