The Africa-America Institute (AAI), an organization which seeks to promote engagement between Africa and America through education, training and dialogue, launched itsCareer Expo: Inaugural Talent SummitSept. 21 at Hunter College. African leaders in business, technology and healthcare gathered among New York professionals to talk recruitment, transitioning for global jobs, and the challenges the continent faces in terms of talent acquisition and retention.
The event started with breakfast and then began with a panel, “From the Frontlines: Conversations with Expatriates and Repatriates,” moderated by AAI President and CEO, Amini Kajunju, and featuring Yero Balde, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Guinea (West Africa); Dapo Oyewole, Technical Adviser to the Minister of National Planning of Nigeria; Debbie Peters, Fund Manager at AiQ Capital Management Limited; Robert Kayihura, Legal and Corporate Affairs Dept. at Microsoft.
(Images: Emma Chepkwony)
Panelists offered the audience several tips for things to consider before making the move abroad for employment. First, plan, plan, plan. Professionals interested in taking the leap will have to be financially, emotionally, culturally, and educationally prepped for a move.
On financial prep: Be sure you have your savings and are financially able to deal with things such as local taxes, cost of living, emergencies and even losing your job, panelists advised.
Also, when considering a global job, be aware that things will indeed be different, and these things might affect your finances. You must be humble, patient and resilient, panelists said, adding that those who are used to life abroad will need to be realistic about their expectations and research the culture and habits of the country where they plan to work. It’s also a good idea to plan a short stay and get the support of mentors, family and friends from the respective company before taking on permanent positions.
The second panel, “Inside the Recruiter’s Mind,” gave attendees an inside view of international and regional hiring needs from global companies and national policymakers. Moderated by Ishmael Dodoo, country adviser for the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, this panel featured Njambi Ngunjiri, consultant for Careers in Africa; Dr. Josephine Ojiambo, chief of the Executive Board and External Relations Branch of United Nations Population Fund; Paul Hinks, CEO of Symbion Power; Didier Acouetey ofAfricsearch; and Kunle Olaif, Human Resources West Africa at Samsung.
On value of diaspora professionals returning to Africa:
For some industries, Africa doesn’t have enough [professionals] with the appropriate, specialized skills on the continent, said Didier Acouetey, so, professionals from the diaspora add value.
Emerging and high-growth industries also include energy, information and communications technology (ICT), education, agriculture, transportation, and social services, panelists shared. “There’s tremendous growth and [industries] are booming and will continuing booming,” Acouetey added.
On tips for making the transition: Panelists also advised professionals to think strategically and holistically about job opportunities. Don’t limit yourself because of the industry. Look at your job search in terms of industry, function, and trends, said panelist Paul Hicks. He stressed the importance of knowing where your unique skills and education can fit into emerging and growth industries and think outside the box in approaching employment in those industries.
On value of mixing diasporan experience and knowledge of Africa: “One of the things that the diaspora has, particularly those who are first generation, is they still have a knowledge of their motherland, speak the language and understand the culture, so when you take them home, you’re not reintroducing an altogether different [experience],” said Dr. Josephine Ojiambo (far right). They bring the knowledge from abroad along with the cultural awareness, she added. We’re able to replicate the success from the diaspora, with growth of industry and the elite, in Africa.
On importance of being culturally aware:
“It is essential for the diaspora to be aware of what the issues are and what the trends are. You must be able to connect with people who are back home,” said Njambi Ngunjiri. “There are some who have returned to Africa, and within six to eight months, they’re back in the U.K. or the States simply because they could not reintegrate.”
On finding success post-employment: Soft skills are very important in terms of recruitment. Panelists urged professionals to be great with social skills, especially young professionals who may find employment at companies where they’re overseeing elder professionals. You can earn your respect and overcome ageism and other challenges by doing great work and adding value, said Yero Balde.
On global positioning: Also, panelists urged professionals interested global jobs to work for multinational companies that have global departments or branches to position themselves to work in African countries. Also, make your global interests known from the onset, said Robert Kayihura.
The last panel of the day was “The Changing Landscape of African Business,” and was moderated by Nvalaye Kourouma, CEO of Emerging Payments and Mobile at Wallet Innovation Executive of Afric Xpress Services Inc. It featured panelists Motlatsi Mthimunye, Director at Africa Desk, Global Corporates Americas for Barclays; Dr. Mwaba P. Kasese-Bota of the Permanent Mission of The Republic of Zambia to The United Nations; Adiat Disu, founder of Adiree and Africa Fashion Week(s); Malik Dechambenoit, Partner and Co-Founder at Gumbi, Dechambenoit & Associates, Isis Nyong’o, a mobile and tech expert, and Evaristus Mainsah, general auditor at IBM.
For more information on the Africa-America Institute, its resources and the 60th Anniversary Gala, visit AAIOnline.org.