In a recent article, I looked at whether Kenya was ready to embrace digital HR. I also made a point in this article that Africa is a large continent – in fact, at over 30 million sq. kilometres, this article by the Daily Mail suggests it covers the same surface area as 13 countries – including the United States, China and India – and the whole of Eastern Europe. With 54 individual and unique markets on the African continent, it would be very naive to assume each of those countries face the same challenges, especially when we think about the history and political journey behind each nation.

Continuing my journey through Africa, I look at the challenges and opportunities in Rwanda. Whilst Rwanda forms part of the East Africa Community, this nation faces different challenges in the work place than Kenya.

 

Background

Just 24 years ago, Rwanda experienced a horrific genocide, resulting in the slaughter of an estimated 800,000 Rwandans, primarily of the Tutsi tribe. The genocide ended when the Rwandan Patriotic Force (RPF), backed by the Tutsis, took control of the country. This led to the displacement of up to 2,000,000 Rwandans, who fled to neighbouring countries and became refugees. Clearly a tragedy of this magnitude will inevitably have deep, lasting consequences and rebuilding an entire country in the aftermath is a significant undertaking. However, under President Paul Kagame’s leadership, the economy has grown immensely, with GDP economic growth averaging 7.26 percent from 2000 until 2017, despite a temporary drop to 1.7 percent in Q4 2017, according to Trading Economics. The country has made significant progress in a short space of time and many new industries have emerged, such as tourism, foreign trade and exports. In addition, the country is recognised as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa – and is very open for business and foreign investment.

However, looking beneath the surface, there are some unique challenges that this rapid growth has presented. I spoke with Denise Umunyana of Right Seat, a leading HR consultancy based in Kigali. Denise shared some insights around the main HR challenges faced and the opportunities for harnessing digital HR solutions.

 

What are the HR challenges?

Firstly, Denise explained that Rwanda has different challenges to Kenya. The real challenge for Rwanda is less about retention but more about finding the right calibre candidates in short amount of time. Due to the rebuilding of Rwanda following the horrific events of the genocide, there is not such a large pool of candidates with sufficient experience to meet the market demand. This presents a challenge in a rapidly growing economy; companies are naturally looking for experience, but many people don’t have 20 years of experience; some may say there is now a war for the best talent.

Denise mentioned that “it is common for people to come out of school and struggle to find employment, as they have little experience. The constant HR challenge is therefore, urging the market to be patient as th­ere is a small pool of exp­erienced talent, especially for the senior roles. There is potential talent in the market but companies need to be convin­ced to give people a chance to prove thems­elves.”

 

Are digital HR solutions being used to help to address this challenge?

Technology is increasingly becoming part of everyday life in Rwanda, as with many countries in Africa. Denise comments that “Rwanda is definitely open to digital solutions that will help to make work more efficient.” She continues to mention that “there is interest for digital HR but very few companies are really embracing it.”

 

What is preventing organisations from embracing digital HR?

“Cost is the number one reason; there is very much a perception that digital solutions cost too much.” Denise states.

Lack of awareness and information on market solutions was also a factor. Denise highlighted that “there is a mix of awareness among leaders who see how digital HR solutions can offer maximum business benefits – some businesses understand this and some don’t see the full benefits. For those who see the benefits but haven’t invested, it is most likely due to digital HR not being a big enough priority and the cost is too high.”

Another concern that Denise cited was that organisations do not see local solutions, so need to look to international vendors. This raises questions around whether local support would be readily available.

 

Conclusion

With every challenge, there is an opportunity.

There are no doubt opportunities to add value to HR through technology, by using it to address the challenges they currently face. Digitising the recruitment processes would be a good place to start, as this will help to reduce manual administration, increasing efficiency and ultimately significant cost savings for the business.

However, as I discovered when researching Kenya, there is most definitely a compelling need to help educate the market about the real benefits of HR technology as a first step. Whilst I have heard how cost is a significant factor in both countries, a fundamental factor is that companies need to really see for themselves how their investment can be offset against the longer-term benefits.

 

Contributors

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