BCG Survey: Majority of Africans want to work abroad

March 10, 2015

Few days ago, I completed reading a comprehensive survey released in November 2014 by Boston Consulting Group about people willing to go to another country for work. In the survey, the proportion of people willing to work abroad is particularly high in countries that are still developing economically same as those experiencing political instability.For example, a staggering 97% of Pakistanis were said to be willing to work outside their country.On economically and politically stable countries like United Kingdom, German and United States, most of the people are not nearly as willing to go abroad in search of work. As for selected African countries, the proportion of young people willing to work abroad is slightly higher than the general population.In terms of occupation, people who work in engineering and technical jobs are the most likely to be willing to go abroad, with about 50 percent saying this.

At the bottom end of the mobility spectrum are those in the medical and social work fields. In most countries, the BCG report notes that young people are more mobile than their aged compatriots and good example is the United States where those aged 21 to 30 are far more willing than their older counterparts to consider opportunities abroad.In Africa,there are major implications for companies operating around the continent and they will need to rethink their people strategies and overhaul their approaches to recruiting, rewarding, developing, retaining and motivating their best workers otherwise brain drain will continue growing.Governments in Africa also need to address hostilities Africans show towards foreigners and companies will need to take into account the growing importance of attracting new foreign talent and retaining local talent.United States is the preferred destination with the highest appeal to foreign workers. Of all BCG survey respondents, close to half of them said they would consider moving to the United States, followed by Britain and Canada in third at 37 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

Although Africa has significant growth and economic potential, with experts predicting the number of people in the middle and affluent class to double to 300 million by 2025, it seems that Africa is still not a magnet for global talent. The most cited reasons by Africans are better career opportunities, challenging oneself and improved salary prospects.The continent is also struggling to attract members of the African diaspora to return home. A case am familiar with is where an American research company experienced similar challenges firsthand.Although a leading company, it pro-actively approached the African diaspora to work for them but in vain.However, foreign professionals, especially those with families, worry about the poor standard of living, such as the quality of education and health care. The African diaspora also cites specific concerns, such as perceptions of poor job opportunities, lower levels of pay and traffic jams.On the other hand, more than 50 percent of Africans are willing to go abroad to seek employment opportunities.

Boston Consulting Group findings reinforces the view that Africa and other developing regions are likely to experience a severe talent shortage in the coming decade despite the fact that it will need to find ways to attract and to retain its most talented and highly skilled people. Building attractive cities to live and work in, strengthening the education sector and ensuring an adequate public health system, are all prerequisites to successfully compete with countries that are attracting top talent. As experts describe it, soft factor is a good work-life balance with an attractive fixed salary, an employer’s financial stability and learning as well as career development.The war for talent in Africa will only intensify as more foreign companies enter the continent considered to be the fastest growing in the World and successful local companies expand.In simple terms, only those that are best prepared to build and nurture talent systematically will be able to enjoy the full opportunities of Africa’s future growth.

Contador Harrison