“African countries want to deal with a local partner that can support them locally. They also enjoy the stature of an established international company that is offering world-class products and functionality, locally,” says Gerhard Hartman, the Head of Department in Softline VIP’s Africa Division, part of the Sage Group plc.
Softline VIP started building its comprehensive African partner network in February 2010 in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi and has since expanded to include 11 African countries with further development into Angola, Mozambique and Ghana on the cards.
African countries are increasingly looking at the return on investment on capital expenditure, says Hartman.
“The information derived and the HR and payroll reporting structures contained within our products are fundamentally changing the way that companies are distributing information to their respective management teams. Information about the workforce, finance, payslips, skills and budgets down to an actual headcount is now available at the click of a button. It is accurate and forms the basis for informed decision-making, which is the type of functionality that African countries want.”
Hartman says a quick knock-and-drop type of product will not find any traction in the African space.
“You need to make sure that your product is compliant with the country’s governmental regulations and legalities. Corporate and international companies are normally very well regulated by authorities with in-depth audits not being an unusual occurrence. Many African countries have burned their fingers in business ventures with international companies that have gone horribly wrong and it is for this reason that they prefer dealing with local companies.”
Skills shortages form part of the African landscape and it is for this reason that many African countries look favourably upon the employment of expatriates.
“As the global economy continues to plummet, many highly skilled individuals are looking for opportunities outside their own countries. The African market is expanding and is abundant with opportunities for growth, where these scarce skills are quite beneficial. The appointment of an expatriate is normally on a very strategic level, with the exclusion of a local person normally decided upon due to a lack of necessary skills,” explains Hartman.
Having the correct systems in place to accurately determine what skills are needed and being able to compare prospective candidates are therefore crucial. “You have to take the cost of recruitment into consideration and the return on investment that will be derived from it. Passing the skills down from expatriates to the local market and the organisation as a whole is heavily underpinned during the entire process. Skills retention has also grown to become a paramount initiative. The HR and payroll technology ultimately allows organisations to monitor the process,” explains Hartman.
The need for comprehensive HR software in Africa is quite clear. “As a company, you have to commit to the cause and not just try a few options. If you are committed to making a difference, then you will gain alot,” concludes Hartman.