Until early 2017, Barbara and I were operating a very successful recruitment company, Oxford Recruitment, on the ground in Zimbabwe. We ran it for 17 years and delivered an excellent service to our clients, mainly locally, as well as delivering some international / pan African exclusive mandates. With a business background and having worked in a number of locations across the continent, we were confident of what we were able to offer our Clients and Candidates to support them with key hires and we delivered results we are proud of.
It wasn’t until we decided to move to a more stable business operating environment than what Zimbabwe could offer us and embarked on a new career with Executives in Africa in the UK that we realised there was a step up in the service offering to be made. Like many other businesses on the ground in Africa, we were curious as to how a UK-based company could compete effectively, let alone out-compete local recruitment expertise, local knowledge and local networks, but that is exactly what we found Executives in Africa are doing.
So how did we come across Executives in Africa in the first place? Wanting to leverage off our strengths of bringing African business and recruitment knowledge, we used these criteria to map organisations which we thought could offer us the growth potential we were looking for as well as allow us to add value to their business.
In a nutshell what we were looking for was; a top flight, UK-based, high value Executive Level Recruitment Company which recruited into Africa. We quickly identified Executives in Africa as the leader in delivering this and decided to make a straight-forward and direct approach to Sarah Fitzgerald, Managing Director setting out our capabilities, skills and experience in recruitment in Africa.
We received a quick response from Sarah and rapidly found ourselves going through a series of business discussions, interviews, assessments and recruitment work sampling. Our assessment was certainly thorough, and based not only on capability, but also quite heavily on our approach, style, commitment to quality and overall cultural fit to the organisation. The whole process resulted in offers being made and accepted by the end of January 2017 and we touched down in the UK in April 2017.
Initially we thought what was being done by EiA was very similar to what we had been doing in Zimbabwe. However, we very quickly discovered that the services that can be offered by an in-country Contingent Recruitment Company are actually vastly different from the services offered by a UK-based Africa specialist Executive Search Company working on a retained basis. Here are some of the main differences we found:
EiA’s clients benefit in that the Executive Search results in a Short List that comes from a far wider reach than that of an in-country, Contingent Recruitment Company. This is because they map internationally as well as locally, identifying Africans outside of their home country to relocate back as well as getting clients to think laterally about other African nationals who can offer credible solutions to the recruitment challenge.
More thorough Partnership Relationship
Even from the starting point, EiA has a huge advantage over the typical in-country recruitment agency in that they have the exclusive attention of the client and are focused on providing them with a highly detailed role briefing. Our previous experience is that this part of the process was much shorter and far less thorough. The client certainly benefits from the in-depth briefing in the relevance of candidates identified as a result and we were quite simply blown away by the quality of the individuals on the first Search Short List we each worked on.
Experienced & Committed Search Team
At EiA, a Search is never handled by just one Consultant. Each assignment has the resources of at least two EiA specialist Search Consultants and one or two In-House Research Associates, overseen by a member of the Senior Management Team to ensure quality and consistency. Additionally, these individuals are all really experienced in both recruitment and specifically in Africa. Over the seven years that EiA has been operating, they have accrued experience in recruiting into 33 African countries, filling over 350 varied role mandates across a range of sectors and utilising over 300 years cumulative experience of which 140 have been in Africa.
What we have really enjoyed is being surrounded by other Southern Africans, North Africans and European members of the team. On a daily basis we have Consultants and Associates speaking to Candidates and Clients alike in French, Portuguese and even Arabic. Now that is something we weren’t able to offer our Clients, despite having run a few mandates in Mozambique ourselves.
On a more practical note and perhaps unsurprisingly, communication into Africa from the UK is better than trying to communicate with African clients and candidates from within Africa. Combined with this is the fact that most African countries are quite often affected by power cuts, communication disruptions and slow speed Broadband offerings so communications between two African countries can be fraught with frustration, whereas utilities in the UK are consistent and reliable. This is most certainly something we have enjoyed so far and enables us to have ‘face to face’ Skype meetings on a more regular basis, bringing stability from one end at least.
Reaction from Candidates
Without doubt, candidates who are happily working in their current roles and are not necessarily looking for a career change are a lot more responsive to approaches from UK-based Associates and Consultants than they are to approaches from local African agencies. Even though we are African, they seem to be flattered by being identified by a UK-based Search Firm and as a result, we have both enjoyed much better access to high quality candidates which we can then present to our clients.
Moving to the UK has been a great decision for us and has meant we can focus more on the service we can provide to clients rather than having to deal with some of the daily frustrations that we’ve encountered whilst running a business in Africa. We are heart-warmed by the welcome we have received by our work colleagues and the ease of integrating into the working life at Executives in Africa.
We feel that we can contribute significantly to this outstanding team with our in-depth experience of recruiting in Africa as well as operating businesses in Africa which gives us a unique insight into the challenges that our marvellous continent can offer.