Following the Talent Agenda Series Southern Africa Conference, which took place in Johannesburg in October 2017, we caught up with two of our fantastic speakers, Candice Watson, the Southern Africa Area Head of Talent at British American Tobacco and Loyiso Ndlovu, the Executive Manager : Strategy, Research, Policy and Marketing at Land and Agriculture Development Bank, to discuss their views on the changing environment in Southern Africa and what they thought the future held for the region.
Here are their thoughts:
For you, what are the major human capital challenges facing the Southern African region?
Candice Watson: From my perspective, one of our key challenges is to ensure that we have talent that is agile, and has the necessary skills and competencies to be able to engage with the economy. The reason why it is a challenge for us is that we often find in the different countries in which we operate, and specifically in South Africa that you can find very keen and enthusiastic young people who want to participate in the economy but they don’t have the skills necessary to do this.
This is for a number of reasons. We know all too well that in the Southern African region, we do not have the basic educational and infrastructural systems running throughout our economies. One of our key challenges is to ensure that these individuals have the attitude and the energy we are looking for and then to create active and clear learning opportunities for said individuals. This is either within our own organisation or by partnering with different institutions and sector authorities, including the educational sector.
Loyiso Ndlovu: In addition to partnering with different institutions, if you want to be able to capitalise on the skills that you provide, you have to be able to compete within the environment without having to throw away too many administrative and policy processes. Flexibility is key when it comes to this region, given the way in which people move around the continent and the transferable skills which we see being used in a number of different sectors.
Have you found for Southern Africans who are returning from the diaspora that there is a big gap in terms of their skill set between this cohort and those South Africans who have remained here, or have you found that their skill set has developed with that international and regional exposure?
Loyiso Ndlovu: The big observation from my side is that these people who have worked and been educated abroad have a different perspective – in other words, they are able to bring to the table a different view on how things work. This isn’t necessarily unique to the region and my experience, the reverse is also true. When you have South Africans or people who come to South Africa who then go to work in the UK, Australia, etc., they also bring unique insight into their jobs.
Candice Watson: I absolutely agree with you. Africans are very family-oriented and socially integrated so they never lose contact with their previous employers, employees, etc. from whichever country they are from. As a result there is never really a gap in terms of social integration back into the more populated countries. There is more understanding of ‘I have learnt all these new skills, how do I know share these skills with my own network and organisations I am partnered with’.
In the next 5 years, what do you think the next steps are for seeing growth and expansion for the Southern African region to reach its potential?
Loyiso Ndlovu: My view is that the region’s potential will be reached via the ability to combine the private sector decision-making processes with correct HR and management processing. In doing so, we will be able to align the entire educational and professional processes and make it more efficient. That way, early-level professionals will have the ability to engage early on with such processes and gain as much information as them as possible. This I believe is the key to unlocking Southern Africa’s potential.
Candice Watson: From my perspective, if you look at Southern Africa in the next five years, we are hoping that we will be able to give access to people through technology to various learning platforms. All the information that we need already exists, some of it needs to be developed, but we have seen now that that amount global technology software has been adapted to be able to serve learners and for them to be able to tap into the various platforms. Hopefully, the region will be in a position, thanks to technology, for them to be able to upskill themselves and customise the suite of learning for the career experiences that they want.