Investing in African talent brings results
Some of the world’s fastest-changing economies are in Africa and Unilever is developing local talent to meet a surging demand for top-class business skills across the continent.
How many times have you read a headline that boasted about Africa being the place to do business? Well, chances are you’re going to see a lot more of them in the near future.
For many investors, Sub-Saharan Africa is just one of the world’s emerging economies. In truth, it is a vast and vibrant continent with a diverse cultural mix and entrepreneurial spirit. Businesses operate everywhere from modern shopping malls to local markets and are pushing the boundaries of mobile payment technology. These fast-growing markets are creating a rising thirst for talent and, with a new generation of ambitious, well-connected and talented Africans demanding best practice, it’s not hard to see why African businesses now have to compete for the best managers.
No.1 Employer in Africa for two years in row
Unilever has had a presence in Africa for more than 100 years, so you could say we spotted the potential a long time ago. The top ranks of African business are already full of former Unilever employees. But we need to stay ahead of the curve, which is why we are proud that, for the last two years, we’ve been awarded No.1 Top African Employer by the International Top Employers Institute. This award recognises our firm focus on developing local talent to meet our sustainable growth ambition in Africa.
“Building African talent and leaders is obviously central to the success of our sustainable growth ambitions in Africa,” explains Bruno Witvoet, Unilever’s Executive Vice President for Africa.
Key to Unilever’s plans to attract and develop such talent are initiatives such as internal academies to build skills in customer development, marketing and supply chain. A single cross-company system allows the company to plan performance and talent development globally, including rotating promising African managers between countries or internationally to build skills and experience.
“As a result African businesses that were talent importers are now producing managers that can compete with the best globally,” says Bruno. To date, over 250 Unilever African managers have been given the chance to undertake development opportunities outside their home countries.
Talent exchanges bring results
“I’m one of the African resources who has benefited,” says Agnes Kitololo who is currently on a placement in London working as a brand director in Foods & Refreshment. Agnes will shortly return to Africa. ‘Getting the opportunity to work in regional brand development in South Africa and Global brand development in the UK has been invaluable in helping me grow as a marketer. I look forward to bringing these learnings home and complementing them with the richness that comes from an in-market brand building experience,” she adds.
“Our strength as a global company is that our African managers can access global best practice. We’ll always maximise local employment but, unlike local firms, we can also bring in global talent to train and work with African teams.
“We are often asked if our management is 100% African but our real goal is to ensure 100% of our African managers can compete with the best globally,” says Bruno. “We want to set the benchmark for best employment practice and make our people best in the market, so that Unilever’s talent in Africa will have an impact for years to come as the continent carves out its place in the world economy.”