Attracting and Retaining Executive Talent in Africa

Leadership StrategiesLeadership
min Article
March 07, 2015
12 min
Leadership StrategiesLeadership
Executive summary
We surveyed senior executives in Africa to help companies better understand the dynamics of the region’s executive talent market.


Download full survey findings

Businesses operating in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa face a growing executive talent gap and are confronted with a gap in traditional management skills such as team building and change management among leadership talent.

The African diaspora is an important source of talent but historically has been hard to tap into. As the economy expands, this diaspora is becoming easier to recruit in Kenya and Nigeria. In South Africa, however, there is a wide gap between the importance of diaspora and the perceived willingness to return, which is decidedly lower than in the other countries surveyed.

In an environment of rising talent shortages, the ability to attract and retain senior talent is becoming increasingly important, requiring more than just attractive compensation packages. Talent is also looking for empowering organizations with rapid career advancement opportunities.

To address these challenges early on, companies should invest in building their own talent pipeline, develop leaders in-house and encourage greater mobility among staff. To pool talent and achieve scale, companies should consider forming partnerships for leadership development.

Companies that understand where members of the region’s diaspora currently reside and what will motivate them to return will be more effective in tapping into the growing pool of returning diaspora.

Attracting and Retaining Executive Talent in Africa 2015 Survey

The continent of Africa has seen significant economic growth in recent years: Over the past decade, six of the 10 fastest-growing economies have been in Africa,1 which is now one of the most swiftly developing regions in the world. Simultaneously, the cost of doing business in Africa has been falling, and the continent’s middle class has begun to grow rapidly. And the future looks bright: sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow by more than 5 percent per annum over the next five years.2

Growth Leads to a Talent Gap

Not surprisingly, the dynamic business environment in some parts of Africa is attracting a rapidly rising number of multinational corporations (MNC). Yet it also presents an important challenge for these companies, as the rapid growth of African economies has created a gap between demand and supply of senior leadership talent. This shortage of talent has already become a common reality for both multinational and local organizations and is only expected to widen over the next 10 to 15 years as economies continue to grow and more companies move into the region. Samsung, for example, has just established its regional headquarters in Nairobi, now serving East and Central Africa from Kenya instead of Dubai. At the same time, local businesses are growing rapidly and coming to rival MNCs in scale and in their ability to attract talent.

Russell Reynolds Associates Talent Survey

To help companies better understand the dynamics of the region’s executive talent market, Russell Reynolds Associates took a close look at the executive talent market in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, surveying more than 230 senior executives and sitting down to discuss the findings with many of them

In doing so, we attempted to shed light on the following questions:

  • What is the nature of demand and supply for senior leadership in these three markets?
  • How important is the diaspora of executives who have left their home country for work or education, and what is their willingness to return?
  • What are the primary challenges companies face in attracting and retaining leadership talent?
  • What are the preferred means of career development in the region?

We chose to focus on Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa as a result of their economic market conditions. Both Kenya and Nigeria have fast-growing economies with significant upside potential. South Africa, though currently suffering from an economic slump, is the most developed economy on the continent. While this survey focused on just three countries, other markets in the region face similar challenges or are expected to face them soon.





Attracting and Retaining Executive Talent in Africa