Posted by: Rotimi Olumide, Microsoft Windows Lead for sub-Saharan Africa
That’s a career question that I ask a lot of people. It’s an important question, because it helps to shape a fulfilling career path.
A lot of people in Africa aspire to work in international organisations, in top level positions, where they can earn a lot of money. That’s a great and rewarding goal, but unfortunately for Africa it means we are losing our talent to more developed markets. It is true that Africa doesn’t have the infrastructure, internet penetration and access to resources that some of these countries do (yet). However, if you want to have a meaningful impact in rapidly growing markets, there’s no better place to be. Africa offers us the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better, every day.
Working in developed markets does enable a person to make a difference – you can make a strong market even stronger. But in Africa, we can help African people to do more and become more, by helping small businesses grow, local economies thrive, rural communities embrace technology to solve local challenges and nurture a workforce in global competitiveness.
I am Canadian by birth and grew up in Nigeria, but I’ve lived much of my adult life in the United States and Canada. I considered coming to work in Africa for over 10 years. Now that I’m here, I really wish I’d made the move sooner and I constantly encourage other Africans to do the same. If you are an African, living and working overseas but considering returning home, here is why I think you should do it.
1: You will have a competitive advantage
When you live and work in more modern and developed parts of the world, you develop essential 21st century skills quickly: Digital literacy, creative and innovative thinking, curiosity, leadership and accountability. If you brought all of those skills back home to Africa, you would have a strong competitive advantage. Africa is fast becoming a pre-eminent destination for foreign investment and with your understanding of how both Western and African companies operate, you would help these foreign companies to be more successful in Africa. Many countries in Africa offer comparable lifestyles to those offered in developed markets and a growing number of companies can offer competitive compensation packages, as well. You will also be able to encourage more foreign investment in local infrastructure, enabling Africa to develop its economy and competitiveness.
2: You can participate in the growth of Africa
The wonderful thing about Africa is that it’s in an exciting transition phase. As more technology and resources come into the country, we’re shifting to a knowledge-based, Cloud-first economy focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. However, because of the digital divide and lack of 21st century skills, this shift is not as fast as it could be. If more Africans return to Africa, we can actively participate in this transition. We can help transfer skill sets, insights and learnings from the West, close knowledge gaps and unlock new opportunities. Africans can, in fact, share their valuable insights and contributions from anywhere in the world. Knowledge can always be sent back home. Books, technology and equipment can be made available, online courses can be created and shared. The point is, you don’t have to move back to Africa to participate in its growth – but do something to help. You’ll be surprised how much knowledge you’ve picked up over the years. Find a way to share that knowledge and you will make a difference.
3: You’ll be a leader who others aspire to emulate
When you hear an inspirational story about someone who has overcome difficult circumstances, it’s great. When you hear an inspirational story about someone who has overcome the same difficult circumstances you are in, it’s even better. People aspire to be like those who they can relate to or identify with. The same applies in the business world. Employees want to be like leaders who come from the same background as they do. In Africa, your background, heritage and culture all play to your advantage. You can be that inspiring leader and success story that others aspire to. You can encourage more future leaders on the continent.
There is so much need in Africa, but there is still a shortage of talent to fulfil it all. We all have the power to change that, if we decide it’s what we want our legacy to be. Remember that you can make millions of dollars in America. But you can impact millions of lives in Africa.