Apr 03

Angel Jones ‘Why London is Vital To Growth in Africa’

Top Firms Hit Capital for Diaspora Talent.

Top Global and Pan-African companies were in London March 15-16 for Homecoming Revolution’s annual exhibition, aimed at prospective returnees. Among those recruiting were Barclays AfricaStandard Bank GroupKPMGBoston Consulting GroupThoughtWorks and The Foschini Group.

The speaker list was a company of senior executives, thought leaders and change makers – all returnees to Africa and making a difference. They included Betty Enyonam Kumahor of ThoughtWorks; Dr Mabouba Diagne of Barclays; Isaac Fokuo of the African Leadership Network; Mizinga Melu of NBC Tanzania; Prof Nick Binedell of the Gordon Institute of Business Science; Aly-Khan Satchu of Rich Management and Yusuf Abramjee of LeadSA.

“We Africans are the golden generation to make change happen”

Homecoming Revolution is a one-stop skills repatriation platform showcasing careers, property, schools, investments and entrepreneurial opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s the ideal space for active recruiters (and relocation specialists) to meet professionals planning to return to Africa. The initiative was created in South Africa by Angel Jones in 2003 and has newly extended to Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.

ZeitgeistAfrica met Angel Jones to discuss some of the Career trends in sub-Saharan Africa, the opportunities as well as challenges of going home; and why London is vital to their growth strategy.

You returned to South Africa 12 years ago. What sectors do you see consistently recruiting UK Diaspora talent? And which industries are emerging?

Specifically in South Africa, we are seeing robust activity in all major sectors – Financial Services; Construction & Engineering; Retail; Management Consulting; Healthcare; Mining; FMCG; Education and ICT.

In the emerging category, Food & Beverage is growing including Fast Foods, with the number of companies seeking Franchisees increasing. This does not surprise us, as a report by McKinsey Africa states that the fastest growing consumer segment on the continent is Food & Beverage.
Hotel & Leisure is also a growth area, with global and pan-African hotel groups expanding to meet the influx of business travellers and tourists to Africa.

Tell us more about your company’s services.

Homecoming Revolution was originally founded as a non-profit, then at the start of 2013 we commercialized the venture. Our revenue streams are two-fold: Talent Services and Marketing Services.

Homecoming Revolution helps African businesses find top African diaspora talent & customers. We do this by providing services that include: Branding, Research & Mapping, Recruitment, Executive Search, Talent events and Tailored campaigns. In addition to our large-scale expos, we organise niche international as well as local networking events. And where necessary, we’ll work with specialists to deliver a 360 offering.

The March expo was your 7th in London – more than any other City outside Africa. Why London?

London is vital for our growth strategy, because the City has a high concentration of top African diaspora professionals that are very ‘networked’. An increasing number of Africans are returning home from the UK, with many others thinking of doing the same.

So as part of our London and UK growth strategy, we are building alliances with London Business School’s Africa Club; LSE’s Africa Communications Desk; The Africa Society at Warwick; the Cambridge Africa Business Network and Oxford University/SAID. On May 23 I will be at the Oxford /SAID Africa Business Conference, to share insights and trends about what it means to move home to an inspiring career and a life of success & significance.

I share the sentiment of Clarissa Azkoul, from the International Organisation for Migration who said, ‘I’ve noticed a change in the attitude of Africans in the UK Diaspora. They are aware of what’s going on back home and want to be a part of it.’

What would you say to fellow Africans considering their futures back home?

The brain drain in South Africa has reversed, with around 359,000 professionals returning in the past 5 years. This is the vision and hope for other African countries.

As Africans, we are the golden generation who have it in our hands to be the change we wish to see. If we dream about a successful Africa, then we have to be on the continent to make this happen. Don’t wait until it gets better. Come home and help make it better. Return with your eyes wide open.. and a sense of humility.

We’ve talked about the ‘good’ about returning home. What are the key challenges, especially for those moving home after a decade or more?

It is important that fellow Africans return home with realistic expectations. It’s a trade off to return, but the trade off is worth it. The best bits about returning are having friends & family; a sense of purpose and belonging; and an innovative career. The worst bits include infrastructure frustrations of traffic and electricity, though it is getting better. It is HOME.

Watch ‘returnee’ video clip on the best bits and worst bits about moving home..

To your own ‘returnee’ story.. what prompted your move back to South Africa?

I am a 4th generation South African though grew up in a country where I was never proud of the colour of my skin. I spent 7 years in London working with the Saatchi brothers and while I was abroad, voted for Madiba (Nelson Mandela). It meant that for the first time I could be proud of my skin colour, proud of my flag and proud of our national anthem. He had also set me free!

During his 1999 speech at the SA Embassy in London, Madiba looked over at us freezing South Africans and said, “I love you all so much I want to put you in my pocket and take you home.” The crowd went mad and we all wept with joy! At that moment, I thought, “What the hell am I doing here?” This prompted my return home a few years later. And I haven’t looked back since.