Protecting the Local Labour Market in Sub-Saharan Africa During the COVID-19 Pandemic
| Johannes Kgotso Tiba | Emmanuel Kalonji

Protecting the Local Labour Market in Sub-Saharan Africa During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Read Emmanuel Kalonji and Johannes Tiba’s latest blog to learn more about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures implemented to protect the local labour market in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa spurred many countries to implement measures aimed at protecting the local labour market. These trends are seen in countries like Congo – Brazzaville, Gabon, Mauritania, South Africa and Zambia. The measures used by the authorities include localizing certain jobs and mandatory understudy requirements and testing of the labour market, especially in public-private investments.

Localisation of certain positions

The need for talent in areas such as science, information technology, engineering, automation, artificial Intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and autonomous vehicles is very high in many countries around the world. In order to develop local skills, authorities encourage people with these skills to come to their countries while their citizens are being trained on them.

As some of their citizens become qualified for these roles, authorities make efforts to ensure that their nationals are duly employed. Initiatives by the authorities to ensure that certain positions are localized have been seen in countries like Botswana, Congo (Republic), Lesotho and Malawi. Information on localizing these positions is normally provided after an immigration application has been considered.

Localisation plan as part of the expatriates’ work authorisation process

Where the authorities approve an expatriate’s position, a request may be made for an understudy to be provided within a stated timeframe to take over at the end of the permit of the expatriate. Many Sub-Saharan African countries have incorporated regulations into their immigration processes requiring companies to provide a detailed plan for skills transfer in order to hire foreign nationals with critical skills. The requirement refers to an understudy that must be identified with the aim to transfer skills from the expatriate to the local understudy by way of in-depth on the job training.

At the end of the expatriate’s assignment, the local work force should have sufficient skills to take over the role previously filled by the expatriate. In countries like South Africa, this comprehensive skills transfer plan requirement is seen in all major work visa categories.

Use of Quotas to Restrict the Number of Foreign Nationals Working in Designated Sectors

The use of quotas to restrict the number of foreign nationals working in designated roles is a long-standing practice in some Sub-Saharan African countries involved in oil and gas sectors. Countries like Chad, Gabon and Mauritania have these requirements in place and ensure that their Departments of Employment are involved in the process of confirming the availability of talent in the country to make up the requisite talent.

Over the years, these quotas were never implemented as they were found to be deterring investment in these sectors, but the COVID-19 pandemic has returned them to the fore. In Cameroon, the authorities have decided to restrict the employment of foreign nationals to certain positions, especially on projects that are public-private partnership in nature, and investigations are undertaken to confirm non-availability of skills.

In South Africa, the authorities are developing a National Labour Migration Policy that will implement quotas in sectors where foreign nationals are high in numbers, such as hospitality, restaurants, security, farming and agriculture. The policy will be tabled to the cabinet soon.

Enforcement of localisation policies of employment in Sub-Sahara Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to undertake widespread workplace audit and enforce policies to protect local labour markets like quotas, restriction of employment of foreign nationals for certain positions and localization of posts. As such, enforcement is largely targeted on the most serious offenders, with reliance placed on whistle-blowing. It is against this background that employers are advised to always engage their immigration professionals for advice on compliance. Furthermore, employers are encouraged to partake in stakeholder bodies aimed at sensitising the authorities about the negative impact of policies so that they can be reviewed timely and applied in a balanced manner to ensure business continuity.

What lies ahead?

Laying a foundation for the continent’s current and future workforce requires a thoughtful and evidence-based policy approach. As such, it is vital for investors and governments to work together to come up with strategies to contribute to the building of a local skills base to meet future needs.

While it is widely known that Africa experiences shortages of talent, the deployment of foreign expertise within the region should contribute towards building a local skills base through skills transfer. Companies operating within the region must be aware that localisation has become a major driving force for governments in their bid to develop talent as well as to ease the high unemployment rates. As a result, companies are encouraged to develop comprehensive skills transfer plans in order to be able to run a sustainable and successful immigration programs.

Contact us

For further assistance on this subject in the Sub-Saharan Africa region or immigration compliance, please contact [email protected] or your Fragomen immigration professional. This blog was published on 29 July 2021, and due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on global immigration, please visit our dedicated COVID-19 site, subscribe to our alerts and follow us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.