Although companies are desperately looking for talents, from Dakar to Lagos, the young graduates from the African diaspora very often dream about going back to Africa.

Meet Naomie, she was born in France, her parents left home for Paris in the early 1980s and she is one of the many that want to go back to the motherland. So she returned after she graduted with a masters degree in International Development. “Kinshasa needs young people from the diaspora. We have done good studies and can now become the bridge, the catalyst is what is missing at the moment.”, states the 23 years old lady.

Before jumping into this, Naomie seeked for a job in Paris which would allow her to “become familiar with that place” and perfect her plans. “Africa came to me as an obvious destination. Now I need to have a plan. I first thought of working in a NGO before finding out that it was actually a restrictive vision. I realized that Africa’s development could be leveraged by other factors”, adds the ex Sciences Po student.

“Human potential remains our biggest strength”

During a career break, two years ago, Naomie spent some time at the economic department of the French Embassy in Gabon. “Libreville is probably the best place to observe the region’s activity” she mentions. She changed her mind about working in humanitarian after she realized that 38,000 entreprises offshored to Africa in 2017, and starting considering working in a more “classic” sector.

Nevertheless, Naomie is aware that she is not the only one who is interested in that. “I know there are lots of positions and a lot to do. Everytime I go to interviews on working in Africa, I meet people from my Science Po classes, students from HEC or engineering schools”. This might be due to the fact that accordind to Talnt2Africa which is a digital recruitment platform initially dedicated to the African diaspora, 76% of the children from the diaspora would eventually want to get involved in the development of the continent of their ancestors. Since she has graduated this summer, Naomie actively pursues her researches. On september 8th, at the African Leadership Forum (ALF) organized by Talent2Africa for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), she gave her resume and exchanged business cards. According to Nicolas Souche, responsible for infrastructure investments at the World Bank: “our strength remains in the human potential”. For that reason, the IFC, the World Bank’s department dedicated to the private sector, wants to meet several profiles.

Besides IFC, this forum in Paris attracted many other head hunting private businesses representatives as well and according to Talent2Africa, at least 9 executives out of 10  are worried about the recruitment situation in Africa.

“Back to Africa”

If France has still not found value in the double cultured talents, Africa has, and is conscious of the assets they could be. Perhaps it is an opporunity for some of the 6.7 million children of immigrants. At least Ahmad, a 25 years old finance graduate, could not appreciate it more: “We tend to force our way to a good place in the french society. That is a society in which it is better to be blue eyed and blond, than being maghrebian or Sub Saharan. So it feels good to be wanted for once”. In that sense, Bintou Konré, HR manager at Bolloré Africa Logistics, states that out of the 36,000 employees in the firm, 25,000 are in Africa. Through which they value the spirit of the diaspora. “Their double cultures positions give them an upper hand”.

The ALF welcomed pioneers who came to share their stories and experience in Africa. This already gave a glimpse of how the continent attracts the diaspora. For example we have Siny Samba, a graduate from Agronomy school of Montpellier, who blew away the audience at the Pullman hotel, with her launching of her ever growing baby pots products in Senegal,at only 26.

Sharing her experience, the young lady states“I dreamed of working for a multinational firm. Today, I own a small entreprise”. Still a bit overwhelmed by being the boss of about 30 employees at her young age, she is conscious of the potential she has to grow bigger. Like some other precursors who likewise shared their experience and emphasized the ‘back to Africa’ concept. According to Edwige-Laure Moumbouli, head of We Care Global Communication, Africa is actually a career booster.

“A rather pan African vision”

“Had you told me fifteen years ago, that I would settle in Congo today, I would have laughed” declares Mrs Moumbouli. Yet, in 2012, she took the ‘back to Africa’ train which started in the early 21st century. Growing up in Clichy-sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis), she went to school and eventually got a good job at NRJ. She did not seem to be predisposed to leave.

One trip to Africa was enough for her to give up on everything with the certitude that there were plenty of opportunities. Since 2015, her business counts offices in Paris and Brazzaville. Showing how she loves the country where she was born as much as the country where she was from, Mrs Moumbouli reveals: “You know what? I make my African teams work on events in France, because they are more creative than the people here. They are forced to be resourceful and that makes a remarquable ingenuity”.

“I seek to build bridges” reveals Edwige-Laure Mombouli. “We need to restore Africa’s image, and help children in slums. I work hard every day to meet these two objectives”. “If the elders, those who left decades ago do not want to come back, the younger generation goes towards what they see as the Eldorado” says executive Chams Diagne, CEO of Talent2Africa. “Many countries are bridgeheads starting with South Africa, followed up by Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda” adds M. Diagne. “What is really interesting is that these people from the diaspora do not limit themselves to their fatherlands countries. They have a rather pan African vision”. States M. Diagne delighted.

Head Hunters

Africa is thus well set into the minds of young graduates from the diaspora. The continent is seen as a place full of opportunities with high growth rates that needs a skilled workforce. However, all is not blissful in this story. Recruited talents are conscious that all is not as dreamy as it sounds. They will need time to adapt to the new environment as most female entrepreneurs have experienced.

Looking back, Siny Samba even laughs about it. She realizes she could have been upset when the secretary of the bank (where she wanted to borrow money to grow her business) called her “Mister” on the phone. Instead, she remained calm when she walked through the door and was said “Ah it’s you” showing their disappointment in receiving a woman instead of a decent business leader.

Although it is difficult to measure the extent of the ‘going back’ phenomenon, we can assure that it is real. Platforms such as Talent2Africa join the headhunters who are already present on the continent. Moreover, the International Organisation for Migrations (IOM) and also the French Office for Immigration and Integration (FOII) changed their approaches. They believe in going back and reintegrating.

Translated from: https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2018/09/21/les-enfants-de-la-diaspora-tentes-par-l-afrique-de-leurs-parents_5358538_3212.html

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