A continent on the move: global mobility in Africa

09 September 2014

African economies have been transformed since the 80s. Today, Africa has become the "ultimate frontier" to conquer and the growth rates seen in many countries continue to attract investors.

Companies in Africa expect to send more people on international assignments in the coming years. They recognise the strategic value of deploying the right people in the right place at the right time, and also the benefits to talent development. According to PwC’s first-ever Global Mobility in Africa survey, 88% of companies say that the importance of global mobility has increased over the past three years.

Africa’s growing economies are creating more demand for top people; in our Africa CEO Survey, 91% of CEOs are confident of growth prospects this year but 75% say that a lack of key skills is a potential threat to growth. There is an imbalance in many economies between the demand for skilled labour and supply. Larger companies can leverage a regional workforce to good effect, by sending skilled people on secondment or setting up ‘hub’ operations in markets with a stronger skills base. Other companies may outsource skills in growth markets or enlist third parties like subcontractors (who may be foreign-born).

Companies that leverage foreign-born talent must navigate the intricacies of government immigration and tax policies. These policies vary considerably by country and recently, immigration regulations for foreign workers have become stricter in many African countries. To manage these challenges, the majority of companies in our survey (60%) outsource immigration to third-party service providers and 74% use external service providers to provide tax services to their expatriate employees.

In our Africa survey, 86% of companies use their internal Human Resource staff to prepare employment/secondment contracts. Employment/secondment contracts are the most important document in support of visa/work permit applications and may need to be disclosed as part of tax compliance processes. Such contracts may also need to be compliant with labour laws in the host country.

Immigration and tax policy challenges reflect tension between government priorities: the need to build up a local skills base and reduce unemployment—particularly youth unemployment—and the need to grow economies, fuelled by industry and productivity gains. At the same time, the public expects a return on government investments in education.

Companies, too, are investing in their skills base but these investments can take time to realise value. Retaining high-potential talent is difficult in markets where skills are in high demand. Many companies have found that global mobility programmes positively impact retention. In our survey, 85% of respondents rated international assignments as either ‘very important’, ‘important’ or having ‘some importance’ in developing high-potential talent.

In our experience, companies that focus their mobility strategies on both developing talent and growing their businesses will see great benefits in the short and long term. Now more than ever before, companies that align their mobility, global resourcing and talent management strategies with their wider business strategy realise the most value.

Alan Seccombe | Partner, Human Resource Services
Email | +27 11 77 4110

More articles by Alan Seccombe



Thank you for providing me with this relieving information that Africa's global mobility is increasing. As a student this has shown me that there is a future for the people in Africa.

Thank you very much for this informative blog, and post, it is always a great idea to know what is happening around you in order to make wise economic decisions. African prospects are really looking good.

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