Tips for attracting and retaining talent in Africa

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The battle for talent in Africa is intensifying, says professional services firm EY in a recent report. Some 70% of the 308 African organisations surveyed by EY are recruiting to support their growth ambitions. In this more competitive labour environment, the ability to attract and retain the right skills becomes increasingly important.

Sarah Kayongo, country manager of DHL Malawi, says a good benefit package makes employees feel that the company appreciates their hard work.

Sarah Kayongo, country manager of DHL Malawi, says a good benefit package makes employees feel that the company appreciates their hard work.

But attitudes towards employment differ from one country to the next. For example, in many Central African countries employees place a high value on benefit packages, which is less of a requirement in East Africa. How we made it in Africa asked a selection of DHL Express country managers to identify the most effective strategies to attract and retain the best and brightest in their territories.

Training and a clear career path

While an attractive basic salary remains a substantial factor to lure the right people, it takes more than that to keep them. Most of the DHL country managers highlight the importance of investing in training and development programmes.

“Investing in people development for me is the most effective way of attracting and retaining talent. Providing training and ensuring staff have the opportunity to grow is always important,” notes Asteway Desta, country manager of DHL Uganda.

Dominique Lalous, head of DHL Mozambique, concurs: “It is essential to create development programmes for employees, which involves on-the-job coaching and training to close the gaps for a move to the next level. Companies offering international mobility opportunities are also more likely to keep talented employees.”

In Liberia it is necessary to show employees a clear future career path within the company, notes local DHL country manager Akwasi Aninakwah.

EY’s survey found that offering learning and development opportunities is the most important factor for holding on to talent in Africa, with 67% of companies ranking it as their top retention strategy.

Employee benefits

“A good benefit package gives employees a sense that the company cares and appreciates their hard work,” notes Sarah Kayongo, country manager of DHL Malawi.

In Angola, organisations often need to go a step further by offering support in terms of healthcare and housing, according Egidio Monteiro of DHL Angola.

While those surveyed by EY ranked competitive employee benefits only as the fifth most-important factor for attracting talent; it ranks third for retaining these skills.

Stimulating work environment

In Burkina Faso, employees place a high value on a pleasant work environment, according to DHL country manager Nawa Yeo.

Rahman Bholah, head of DHL Mauritius, says in his country it’s essential to ensure employees are challenged and stimulated in the workplace, a sentiment echoed by Mamadou Aw, country manager in Benin. “Challenges and fair package, these are the two things that retain talent,” he says.

Involving employees in the business

Employees need to feel they are part of the overall business strategy, says Angola’s Egidio Monteiro.

“It’s all about employee engagement and active leadership,” notes Alan Cassels, country manager of DHL Kenya. “This is achieved through open-minded managers being close to their teams and showing that they really care what employees think.

“They should also provide prompt answers to questions or requests. Employees should be able to ask anything they want without fear of retribution. They may not always like the answers, but they should feel free to ask, and can expect an explanation if the answer is ‘no’.”


As competition for skills heat up, companies need to work even harder on their talent strategies. EY’s report states that the workplace and the work experience itself is becoming as important to retaining staff as financial benefits. Fixed pay is no longer the dominant determinant of whether employees remain with an organisation or not.