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Human resources in sub-Saharan Africa Human resources in sub-Saharan Africa
by Joseph Gatt
2019-08-20 10:50:17
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Sweeping generalizations and random notes on human resources in sub-Saharan Africa, in no particular order.

-First one that comes to mind is if pay day is, say, on the 25th of each month, in most African countries it tends to be considered rude to pay on the 25th. Workers will start begging you to release their paycheck on the 15th, in some cases on the 12th or 13th. Either way, it is considered polite to pay them anywhere between the 18th and the 22nd if pay day is on the 25th.

-There are a few highly skilled workers in Africa. But they tend to work on a freelance basis, and tend to charge incredible sums for their services. A highly skilled electrician can charge 1,000 dollars for minor services that need a couple of hours of work. Problem is, you won't find any other people with those skills. Highly skilled workers such as interpreters, engineers, electricians, plumbers, computer engineers and so on not only charge incredible amounts, they also often demand transportation, that is demand that you pick them up at home and drive them your company, and drive them back home. Add to that the fact that they often don't pick up the phone, are often aloof and cold, and you're going to have to keep trying to get in touch with them.

subsahara01_400-Minimum wage in a lot of African countries is between 60 and 100 dollars a month. Most companies pay local workers anywhere from 200 to 500 dollars a month, rarely more than 500 dollars a month.

-One of the main reasons Africans quit their jobs is transportation and working hours. Different workers will live in different places. Some live near your company, some live in some very remote village. The guy who lives near the company won't mind the 9 to 5 hours, but the guy who lives at a distant village will try to negotiate working from 7 to 3 rather than from 9 to 5. The best way to work with this is by giving different workers different schedules based on transportation factors. There will be the 7 to 3 crew, the 8 to 4 crew and the 9 to 5 crew and so on.

-Hiring workers. You need to know that most African countries only have one or two universities in the entire country, and that admission to those universities tends to be rigged. So two things you need to look at. First, many incredibly smart people did not make the cut to college. Second, many of those who made the cut to college are not that clever. So when screening resumes, you want to look at the overall presentation and choice of words rather than credentials and experience. Invite those with the most articulate resumes for an interview.

-Job interviews. Some might bring a copy of the Holy Bible of or the Quran with them to the interview. Some might get down on their knees begging you to hire them. If you decide not to hire them, some might beg you to reconsider. So only interview those you are 99% sure you will hire. Safe bet is to give a couple of “phone interviews” before proceeding to a formal job interview.

-General atmosphere at work. Most companies are expected to provide lunch, in some cases breakfast as well. Some companies have formal cafeterias while others designate a cook. Some companies provide lunch money on an individual basis, while others provide collective lunch money that workers will use to shop for food and cook. While others will have deals with local fast-food joints and will get sandwiches delivered every day and pay on a monthly basis. Workers tend to treat each other like brothers and sisters. However, some “leaders” might emerge that are bullies. You need to watch out for that, because a lot of times Africans will be too embarrassed to complain about the bully.

-Finally, workers will tend to be embarrassed to share any bad news. So your safest bet is to pick one of the workers and become close friends with him. Take him to resorts on the weekends, have a few drinks with him, chat him up, soon enough, he will be sharing all the news and gossip. Pick a sincere guy to do this, someone who doesn't make stuff up and someone who doesn't brag about this friendship and doesn't use it to bully other workers. As a side note many choose their drivers as their informants.  That's how you'll stay informed about what goes on in the company.


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