As CEO of The African Talent Company (formerly known as ROAM Jobs), Hilda Kabushenga Kragha, leads the jobs brand in four countries including Jobberman Nigeria, Jobberman Ghana, BrighterMonday Kenya and BrighterMonday Uganda. Collectively, these brands boast of more than 4.6 million talents and over 160,000 employers.
In this interview with Hilda, we talk about – amongst other things – the peculiarities we should expect to see for the African continent with regards to remote work and the nature of work in the near future.
Africa’s tech ecosystem is booming and transcending regional borders, but what other sectors should we be looking at in terms of jobs of the future for Africa’s youth?
Africa’s tech ecosystem is booming, yes, but it is not yet the bread and butter of our markets. In fact, even the largest tech businesses have a much larger percentage of non-tech staff than those on the tech side. On our platforms, we see that administrative roles (HR and finance), customer service, sales and marketing are the most frequent roles in demand. We also see unfulfilled demand in education (teachers) and healthcare (nurses) which are core services in our markets.
Are these sectors/industries already captured in The African Talent Company’s programs?
Yes, they are. We really are a generalist careers business, serving various industries across the most frequent roles in line with labour demand and supply. For the past couple of years, our largest number of openings have been in Tech, Finance and logistics – this is in line with the overall market trends that were brought about by the pandemic.
In your opinion, what could constitute the biggest threat to Africa’s labour market boost?
For jobseekers to have access to dignified opportunities three things need to be in place: On the seeker side, the right upskilling and preparation for work needs to happen such that they can indeed be effective in the workplace and grow. On the labour demand side, job creation must be stimulated to increase the sheer number of opportunities on the market. In the middle, there must be transparency in hiring, granting every seeker equitable access to opportunities such that the best possible candidate is placed in the right job, thus boosting workplace and national productivity.
Speaking on remote work and the nature of work in the near future, what are the peculiarities we should expect to see for the African continent?
Remote work on the continent got onto the fast track during the pandemic, and a number of highly coveted skills such as business intelligence, software development, UI/UX engineers, product managers etc. have been borderless for a while. This had been validated at scale by Andela. What we will see going forward is that this is going to extend beyond highly-skilled tech roles to those with lower skilling requirements like virtual assistants and customer care agents. We will also begin to see larger global remote working and BPO countries set up shop on the continent to complement what currently exists mostly as a sole contractor or gig type of work.
Locally, my personal thoughts are that SMEs especially will continue to struggle with remote working. It is clearly preferred by seekers, especially women, however, the infrastructure challenges around the availability of power, the cost of data and others will be tough to overcome in the short term.
What other trends with regards to labour and the African workforce are being tracked and monitored by The African Talent Company?
We develop several labour market reports each year based on the data in our platform. Each of our websites has a dedicated research section where you can find a rich analysis on aspects such as the creative sector, gender barriers to work, the digital and tech sector, the impact of Covid on jobs, employee satisfaction reports, and top companies to work for, among others.
What are the likely socio-economic implications if Africa does not take youth employment and employability seriously?
More brain drain and eventually social unrest on a scale that has not been seen before. According to the African Union, over 70,000 qualified people leave Africa each year. With an estimated 10 to 12 million young Africans entering the labour force each year, Africa is currently the youngest continent. Despite this, the region can only generate roughly 3 million jobs every year. Many young Africans travel to Europe and America for economic possibilities due to restricted economic opportunities in their home countries. The cost of losing our skilled professionals is high. In the health sector alone, Africa loses $2 billion annually and the cost is an increased patient to health care professional ratio and a declining availability of specialists.
In addition to having unmotivated individuals who could easily resort to crime to get by, the continent could never reach its full economic potential without paying attention to the ticking time bomb.
Are you personally optimistic the continent will beat the odds? If you are, what indications can you point to that inspire the optimism you have?
Yes, I am. We will beat the odds because we MUST beat the odds. The time is now. As the global workforce ages, Africa with our youthful population is the labour force of tomorrow. The world recognises this which is why multilaterals are partnering with the public and private sectors to upskill our population at scale and prepare young people for the opportunities to soon come. As traditional manufacturing and outsourcing hubs get more expensive, those jobs will move to Africa, with vast arable land, we will be the food basket of the globe. These shifts alone present massive opportunities for work and I believe that with the right leadership and partnerships, we will rise to the challenge. This optimism is the core reason why impact partnerships focused on job creation and youth upskilling are a part of our core strategy. We have worked and will continue to work with like-minded organisations to build the African workforce of tomorrow.
What is a random fact you’ve learnt along the way in your work of delivering world-class value to Africa’s labour market?
As somebody who grew up in a family of strong matriarchs where women were encouraged to go their own way, I was surprised by just how much family approval is a factor in whether or not women join the workforce. During our gender barriers research in Nigeria, the majority of women in Kano state for example said they would only work at a job if their families approved. It speaks to the amount of work that still needs to be done at a personal, organisational and policy level to support women entering the workforce and contributing to Africa’s development.