In terms of economic development and prosperity, Africa has its share of challenges, yet the continent stands ahead of the pack for the sheer size and scale of the opportunity that lies ahead. A number of significant success stories have already taken place, led by an emerging - and returning - class of executive talent.
Despite being the second most populous continent behind Asia, Africa’s 54 countries lag considerably across a wide range of economic growth metrics. According to the IMF, the region accounts for just 2.84 per cent of the world’s GDP in nominal terms, and is the second smallest continental economy in the world after Oceania.
Key socio-economic challenges include the region’s poverty, unemployment, infrastructural underdevelopment and political instability. These challenges are complex and interconnected, with no easy solution to any of them.
However, there are many organizations - and by association, many African executives -working to address these issues and improve the lives of the African populace.
The upside and potential that Africa represents is often misunderstood, overlooked, or both. Africa represents an inordinately massive opportunity in a number of areas, including private equity and venture capital, consumer goods, and ICT (particularly with regards to data centers).
Demographically, the numbers don’t lie: 17 of the 20 countries with the highest population growth are in Africa. The continent has the youngest population by far with a median age of just 18.8 years (Europe’s median age is more than double this, at 44.4 years, and North America is not much younger, at 38.4).
What do these numbers mean? In essence, Africa’s population of 1.4 billion is growing rapidly (set to be 4 billion by 2100), extremely young, and increasingly urban – the perfect burgeoning consumer demographic for a range of new businesses.
New ventures that will be of particular value include digitalized services and products that save time and transcend distance. The region has a commitment to developing the world’s largest single market, called the African Continental Free Trade Area.
It could be argued that rather than an agrarian or industrial revolution, a tech revolution will transform the fortunes of the African populace. Arguably, that new epoch is already happening, led by payment innovation, which has been a key growth driver for Africa. Sixty-seven per cent of all mobile money volume transacted worldwide is from Africa; the next best region is South Asia, at just 15 per cent.
Africa is also still at the very early stages of ecommerce - only 12 per cent of Africans have made an online purchase.
NGS Global has collaborated with a spread of clients who have hired key executives across the Sub-Saharan Africa region that indicate a considerable transformation for leadership across the continent, headlined by a few key trends in African executive talent.
- The rise of the African executive: There is a growing pool of talented African executives who are taking on Africa-based leadership roles.
- The brain drain is reversing: African execs who had previously left the continent to pursue opportunities, mainly in Europe and North America, are returning.
- The importance of diversity and inclusion: Businesses and organizations in Africa are increasingly recognizing the importance of this metric in executive ranks
- The use of technology: technology is playing an increasingly important role in the recruitment and retention of executive talent in Africa.
- The need for training and development: African businesses and organizations are increasingly investing in training and development programs for their executives.
Below is a sample of recent searches NGS Global have completed on the continent in collaboration with some of our local and offshore clients. Each of these positions were filled with an African executive and not an expat.
These placements illustrate the above points about companies in the region and by association, African executives, who have taken up the challenges of the continent, and are creating opportunities that positively impact the lives of their fellow Africans.
- US-based private equity firm - Chief Operating Officer (Africa role covering Sub-Saharan Africa).
- Listed agribusiness/consumer products company in East Africa - Group Managing Director and Chief Commercial Officer (Kenya).
- Listed financial services company in East Africa - CEO (Uganda); CEO (Kenya); and Group Head of Marketing & Communications (Kenya).