A hiring partner who is fluent in local culture and business code sets the stage for success 

Businesses that are seeking to set up or expand in the Sub-Sahara African region have higher chances of ensuring success in these emerging markets if they join hands with a strategic partner who is an expert on people and culture. Landing the right hire and welcoming the best-suited talent on board is even more crucial in SSA (Sub-Saharan Africa) given its unique local culture that demands expert handling.  

“Business is based on relationships and relatability. These make or break a business. African markets operate quite differently from the established markets across the globe. In SSA, clients that understand the local cultural mosaic are better equipped to succeed,” explains Nay-Lin Machiwana, Manager, Sub-Saharan Africa, Michael Page.

Time to shine

First, let’s understand why SSA. Among the emerging global business hubs, it seems that SSA’s time in the Sun has arrived. The IMF has projected a growth rate of 3.8% for Sub-Saharan Africa in 2022, a slow but sure recovery away from the Covid crisis. The countries of the SSA, particularly, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, and Angola, are waiting in the wings to bloom into their full potential by optimizing the region’s available resources. International and local businesses alike are finding it lucrative to set up in this region for strategic reasons. 

Firstly, SSA is at a nascent stage of business growth making it ripe for the picking. These markets are comparatively affordable to set up operations in than the more mature markets elsewhere. 

Secondly, companies (especially in the manufacturing sector) find it laborious to operate across the large continent from just one office in, say, South Africa. A local office in each region (Nigeria in the West; Kenya in the East) gives companies greater operational control, and it helps optimize costs when branches take the stress off the hub. 

Thirdly, brands are finding it beneficial to set up local business centers across the SSA to be closer to the consumer and understand market needs. “An African is reluctant to support a brand that does not, in turn, support the local community. A brand or product that has no presence in the local market or has not engaged with the local community has fewer chances of growing,” says Nay-Lin Machiwana.  

It’s people that run a business

Hiring the right candidate can be the best business move for companies setting up in the growing region of Sub-Saharan Africa.  But recruitment in SSA is complex and comes with its own set of challenges. Corruption is rampant in many African countries, and so are favoritism, cronyism, and the tendency to keep it within the family. “These are reasons for international companies to prefer expats who bring an impartial attitude and an interest in growing the business. For instance, companies usually prefer expats for finance roles and many C-suite positions that are currently high in demand across industries,” says Nay-Lin Machiwana. 

The expertise of a strong strategic local hiring partner in meeting these talent needs ends up being critical for businesses. “A lot of market research needs to go into hiring the right fit. That’s when the business benefits and all the investment is optimized. At Michael Page, we are strong on the groundwork. It can take us up to three weeks to come up with a list of five strong candidates. We speak to over 100 candidates before we shortlist those five candidates. It takes hard work, research and experience to get that strategic hire,” explains Nay-Lin Machiwana. She goes on to share examples of two strategic expat hires that Michael Page successfully completed in SSA. “We used our expansive global network, research capability, and recruitment expertise to hire a French national as a Finance Business Partner in a premier building & construction company. The candidate ticked all the boxes on the client’s list of requirements, including prior work experience in Nigeria and West Africa, knowledge of the Nigerian market, experience in global work culture and fluency with speaking French. For placing the Supply Chain Director role in Nigeria, we undertook a global sourcing campaign to ultimately find the right candidate, a German expat, who met the niche skills and experience desired for the role by the client.”

Roles in demand

Michael Page has tremendous capability to attract the best talent that can grow revenue and expand businesses. The roles that are challenging to fill (and where our experience comes handy) are the market access roles, and government & regulatory affairs roles in the healthcare industry; R&D roles, and the skilled technical program director roles in the Life Sciences and Pharmaceutical sector; project directors, finance directors, sales directors, and the commercial roles in the Building & Construction businesses, and so on. Michael Page brings wide and deep industry-wide expertise, advising companies on talent availability and salary benchmarks while bringing its specialist skills on talent sourcing. 

Countries in the SSA are on the threshold of progress. The talent that makes this growth a reality would have etched their contribution in the annals of history. This promise of meaningful work is what true talent thrives on. And Michael Page recognizes that. Request a call back if your business is looking for talent in Africa.  

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