Africa holds the world’s future talent pool
19 May, 2023

Cebile Xulu, Mondelez People Lead


The unemployment rate of 32.9% in the first quarter of 2023 recently released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) reminds businesses and employers that Africa cannot afford to lose existing talent. The African Union (AU) reported that an average of 70,000 skilled professionals exit Africa annually to seek better employment opportunities in countries such as the US and UK. Locally, 900,000 skilled South Africans have already left the country and most notably, younger people between the ages 25-40 are the ones leaving. A recent panel discussion hosted by the Top Employers’ Institute and Mondelēz International, delved into the impact of losing skilled professionals in the country and how employers can meet young professionals halfway to attract and retain their talent in their organisations and the country.


Africa, with its diverse cultures and people, has much to offer the world of work. Africans’ agility, resilience and creativity, as well as their appetite to contribute to the global economy, make them the perfect choice for businesses looking to grow and expand their services on the continent and further afield.


Speaking at a Mondelēz International and Top Employers’ Institute panel discussion, Mondelez People Lead, Cebile Xulu, said Africa’s demographic dividend and diversity is key to developing a global talent pool for the future.


“Africa’s demographic dividend places it at an advantage. With a massive pool of diverse and talented young people, businesses are spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting and developing the leaders of tomorrow.


“Corporates, governments and educational institutions need to work collaboratively to develop the skills needed to take the continent forward. Young talent exists, it just needs opportunities and investment,” she added.


In addition, Africa’s diversity affords it a competitive edge in respect of the global economy. Not only is it developing pockets of technological excellence and innovation, but its agricultural capital has the potential to help address food insecurity worldwide.


Sadly, much of Africa’s talent leaves the continent to pursue opportunities elsewhere. The reasons for this vary, from safety and security concerns, to political instability, and better prospects for education elsewhere. Many do, however, make their way back to the continent, bringing with them new skills and expertise.


Panellists suggested a “best of both worlds” approach, with an emphasis on sharing, not competing. They interrogated how to approach skills transfer in a mutually beneficial way by exporting African talent to the rest of the world but also learning from other more developed markets to nurture local talent that is retained on the continent.


This can be through the many multinationals that establish offices in Africa. While they might bring global talent to the continent when they start out, it is important that they ensure skills transfer to local talent within a stipulated time frame and put succession plans for local talent into place for a more sustainable approach.


Panellists also touched on ways of accommodating the younger generation in the workplace, suggesting that leadership structures be more agile and consider their preference for hybrid work, “gig” or project work, and side hustles.


Young people want to be acknowledged and heard. Their career trajectories are made up of shorter tenures than traditional roles. They also want to make meaningful contributions to their workplaces. Leaders need to embrace their differences and adjust their leadership styles to make the most of this young workforce’s desire to do good.


Of course, no discussion would be complete without touching on the skills needed to operate in a work environment that is characterised by the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).


A Top Employer Report suggests that critical skills in this milieu include critical thinking, resilience, flexibility and emotional intelligence, which can be developed via personalised leadership programmes.


Cebile reiterated that a collaborative approach was needed to promote young talent on the continent. “Only through strategic partnerships with governments, multinationals and local businesses can we come up with viable solutions to upskill young talent, expose them to the world of work and retain them on our amazing continent.”





@Cebile Xulu
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