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The 2017 GBF Africa Global Business Forum Special - Investing Responsibly in Africa’s Human Capital



By Soraya Narfeldt, CEO of RA International - a remote site specialist company

For many developing countries, building a skilled workforce can be a major challenge. In a digital age where an increasing number of traditional jobs are being replaced with technology, it is crucial for emerging markets to build a knowledge economy where their citizens can contribute to their nations’ sustainable development. However, history shows that in many countries, international companies and expatriates have often gone in, done the work, reaped the rewards and left.

In sub-Saharan Africa – the region with the world’s youngest and fastest growing population – investing in human capital is imperative if millions are to gain employment and build better lives for themselves and their families. The good news is that for many organizations doing business in African countries, hiring a proportion of local people is now a legal requirement as part of ‘nationalization’ strategies. Whilst this may appear to be burdensome, there are compelling reasons for hiring local people: they understand their cultures and business practices much more than ex-pats ever can. Smart companies hire locals as much as possible because they very often instinctively understand business etiquette, networks and cultural nuances. These capabilities are particularly important for companies that are outward facing and who engage with the public and other external stakeholders.


Enabling local development

Empowering those who work for international companies with skills and training is especially important in communities where large numbers are employed by only one foreign firm. Major industrial plants in sectors such as mining rely very heavily on local employees and communities can be left unable to find new jobs when companies leave. And, whilst it is true that many jobs might require only basic skillsets, there are opportunities to train and develop large numbers so that they are better equipped for whatever the future holds. The responsibility for doing so does however take time, planning and resources. In the mining sector – where sites can often employ thousands of people in remote locations – companies can choose to delegate training and development schemes to third-party companies that specialize in on-site operations, logistics and management.

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