Top 7 tips for working in Africa

Anna Pishchal – Branch Manager, Africa & EME

The mining sector in Africa is rapidly growing again. Junior mining companies are starting their first projects, bigger mining houses are expanding current operations as well as starting new prospective projects. With still a shortage of qualified local workforce on the continent, bringing Expatriates for the key managerial roles currently seems to be the most common and pragmatic solution in addressing the issues so being able to deliver projects and meet expectations of stakeholders and investors.

Recruitment is certainly a bilateral process, therefore in our series of articles, we decided to publish key tips for both sides, that should help with desirable hiring:

Part 1 – Recommendations for Candidates

Part 2 – Recommendations for Employers 

The advice provided is based on our recent experience with different mining clients and communication with plenty of candidates. 

Part 1 – Recommendations for Candidates:

  1. Don’t be afraid. Employers are often reluctant to engage candidates with no previous experience in the continent, it can be a unique and challenging environment. Trust those in your network who have such experience and challenge your recruiter\company representative with as many questions as possible to learn as much as possible about the country and particular mine site. Try to read information from different sources and try to be objective.
  2. Be ready for short term projects. A lot of candidates are afraid to leave permanent contracts in their home country for a 1 or 2 years assignment in Africa even if the position and challenge appeals to them. Of course, there are different personal situations, but many fail to recognize the upside and benefits of such an assignment. The experience will expose you to new challenges developing new skills, broaden your horizon, and provide valuable international experience. A short-term assignment is also an opportunity for you to get to know the company and understand whether you would like to stay longer with this employer, and these assignments can hold you in good stead for opportunities with other companies.
  3. Discuss the opportunity with your family or significant others before any interview with the hiring company. Sometimes it happens that the candidate is excited to take this move, employer starts to prepare an offer, but then it turns out that the family\partner is against and you need to reject the proposal. This may negatively impact your potential collaboration with this employer in the future when your personal situation changes, or even with other mining companies in the case some HR Personnel move to another mining house.
  4. Ensure you have at least 3 contacts for references from previous employers. You should always endeavor to keep good relationships with the companies you work for even when things are not going smoothly. Always be conscious of your personal brand as a professional.  
  5. It’s not all about the money. First, think about the experience you will get in Africa and all the efforts of a new employer that will be contributed in your development there. Candidates demanding unrealistic 30-40 % salary increases will deprive themselves of new opportunities.
  6. Be proactive – if you don’t have any feedback, ask for it! Depending on the company, hiring processes for mines in Africa can take weeks, even months. If a recruiter doesn’t get back to you with feedback, there is typically a reason for it: often no feedback from the company\hiring manager. But nevertheless, follow up with your contact person regularly to understand the current situation.
  7. Start to learn French  This will open you more opportunities in French speaking African countries such as Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso, DRC Congo, Mauritania, Madagascar and others. Even an intermediate level of French will ensure an advantage over other applicants.

Next week we’ll look at how to enhance recruitment process with our Top 7 tips for employers, in the meantime you can find here a list of opportunities in Africa and don’t hesitate to Share your reflections on our Facebook or LinkedIn pages.