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| Pamela Ganyi

Workforce Localisation In Africa

Localisation is a term which is widely used and which has many connotations within the framework of expatriate management. Localisation often refers to the process whereby a foreign worker hired on an expatriate contract is later converted to a “local” contract or employment agreement with compensation and benefits on local terms.  But from a labour and employment perspective in Africa, the term is mostly used with regards to stimulating employment of a country’s own citizens. This blog will, therefore, provide an overview of localisation from this standpoint.
In recent years, localisation has become an integral part of labour policies in many African countries. When relocating expatriates within Africa, localisation should be given priority as companies are expected to implement concrete plans to transfer skills to citizens and promote local employment.
In the past, the focus on localisation in Africa was minimal and many companies got away with employing a disproportionate number of expatriates compared to citizens in a country. A number of companies took advantage of this and went as far as employing expatriates in positions where skills were available in the local labour market and sometimes in unskilled roles.
Many African governments have now awakened to the reality that there are very few jobs available for citizens and the local labour markets are flooded with graduates whose numbers surpass the government’s capacity to create jobs.
The increased enforcement of localisation policies in Africa is, therefore, a response to the rising crisis of unemployment in Africa and is aimed at reducing the employment of expatriates and creating opportunities for citizens.
Unfortunately, some governments use the promise of job creation for citizens as a political gimmick to garner votes and once in office, the pressures to deliver on their promises force them to implement policies, which are sometimes ambitious.
Localisation Trends in Africa
Immigration and labour policies in Africa are as diverse as the continent herself. Although there are similarities across each region, there are no two countries with the exact same processes. The same applies to how localisation policies are implemented across the continent. The requirements as well as the manner in which they are implemented differ per country.
Some countries adopt the quota system, requiring companies to employ a pre-set number of citizens, which would qualify the company to employ expatriates. Other countries operate the understudy system where companies must identify a citizen to be trained by each expatriate. There is also the succession planning system, where companies must submit a plan of action for each application, showing the number of years it will take as well as the training programs which will be undertaken by a citizen, to qualify him/her for a position.
In some cases, companies are required to advertise positions in the local media and evaluate citizens who apply for these positions. A company may only offer the position to a foreign national by showing proof that an evaluation of citizens has been conducted and no resource was found in the local market with adequate experience for the role. Proof of the evaluation process conducted must be submitted to the authorities in support of each application. Sometimes, restrictions are placed on hiring expatriates in certain roles, which are “localised”, meaning that the skills required for the role are available in the local market. Unfortunately, there is usually no standard list of the localised positions, and this requirement is often applied on a case-by-case basis and at the discretion of the adjudicating officer.
While the overarching aim of workforce localisation is a positive thing, there are unfortunately, a number of countries where a “freestyle” approach to localisation is practiced. These countries would be the ones to watch out for when mobilising expatriates in Africa, as procedures are implemented at random and there are no guidelines for companies to follow when submitting applications for work and residence permits for expatriates.
What to Do
You should contact your immigration expert,  for recommendations and guidelines with regards to positions that could potentially be difficult to fill with foreign resources.
Sometimes, a simple show of good faith goes a long way in demonstrating to the authorities in any country that a company is committed to developing the local workforce. In this regard, employing a good number of citizens comes in handy as motivation when a genuine need arises to engage a foreign national with skills, which are not available in the local market. Labour officers sometimes ask to see a list of employees with the intent to compare the ratio of citizens and foreign employees and having more citizens employed would usually be an advantage for the company. 
Finally, companies should recognise that localisation policies in Africa are here for the long haul. It is therefore practical to employ citizens and provide them with the necessary know-how to fill technical roles. Hiring fresh graduates as trainees and upscaling them by providing appropriate training and development forums is also an advantage.
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