2015 saw Bloomberg list Nigeria and Kenya as one of the fastest growing economies of that year, and in January 2017, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire are on a similar list. According to World Bank’s Global Outlook which measures economic growth in 200 countries, these African economies might outpace the likes of China and India in terms of economic growth.

Across Africa, economies are growing at a moore-esque ease.

Technology is empowering businesses to build better products and scale faster with foreign investors dollars oiling their lean machines.

These hockey-stick growth trajectories and shifts are reshaping both the supply and demand for new and specialized skills across Africa.

An outsized focus has been invested in the digital talent gap, but what might be even more significant is the talent gap for executive positions across Africa. As companies grow, top executive talent needed to chaperone them into true global companies are missing, according to a 2015 report by Russell Reynolds Associates, a global headhunting outfit.

Surveying over 230 senior executives across Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, the study found Nigeria to be a particularly challenging market for recruiting top talent. Fifty-three percent of senior executives in Nigeria, 46% in South Africa and 43% in Kenya submit it’s difficult to recruit talent.

Meanwhile, the sources of executive talent in Africa is still misshapen. Only a few good business schools are in Africa and talent retraining is yet to become a consistent regimen at African companies. Although multinationals such as Diageo, Coca Cola and McKinsey are creating in-house management training programs, such moves are still rare across Africa.

No investor has broached the topic publicly. No research, to the best of our knowledge, has investigated the causal relationship between talent gap and investment into Africa. But it’s interesting to think about. Is the crippling power of talent gap in African companies capable of hobbling direct investment into Africa?

Could investors see these implications of a missing executive leadership and take their investment dollars somewhere else?

“Scarcity of executive talent is a real challenge. It takes tested skill to manage and lead a global brand, and its lack might influence investment sentiment,“ a human resource manager for a bank shared in a conversation leading up to this article.

But for this gap to begin to have a significant influence on investment sentiment, he added, other opportunities in Africa must disappear entirely. “And that hasn’t happened yet.”

Foreign direct investment into Africa fell by 5% to $51 billion in 2016, according to a report by UNCTAD, a decline which was attributed largely to the low level of commodity prices – not talent gap.

“Talent gap impacts investors confidence on a micro, individual company level, but on a macro, national level, it is not significant enough yet. Not to say it won’t in the future,” another HR executive offered.

As long as African economies are galloping along, investors will – it appears – continue to put their dollars behind companies rising out of the continent.

In subsequent posts, we will deep-dive into helpful tips and creative ideas that the best companies have used to address this gap.


Many things already work against companies, don’t let missing executive talent be one of them for you. We can help. We use market penetration to procure the finest talents in Africa who have been thoroughly assessed and surpass both organizational and industry standards by a mile. Call or drop us an email to start.