Facilities Management: Contributing to Development Goals in Africa

By Alf Nathoo BA, Msc(FM), MBIFM, FMCMI, MBIC

The first annual conference on Human Resource Development in Africa was held in Addis Ababa from August 30 - 31, 2017. The sub-theme of the conference was "Employability and Skill Development in Africa" and was aimed at helping emerging economies in Africa develop the skills needed to achieve their development goals.

Speakers from around the globe shared their views on how Africa can develop the necessary skills to create employment, which is a major problem on the continent. The path to achieving development goals in Africa has a visible impact on the practice of Facilities Management (FM). This article discusses some of these issues and the opportunities for the FM profession.

The key conclusions of the conference included:

  1. Africa has the resources necessary to drive economic growth. It has 60% of world's cultivable land and substantial natural resources, from minerals to oil and also has vast amounts of people capital
  2. Africa is experiencing a population bulge and is struggling to create employment, especially for the youth
  3. Several initiatives were shared about youth employment in Sub Saharan Africa
  4. A strong argument was made that African economies can be improved by boosting value added exports and increasing the manufacturing of export goods in particular
  5. A research paper presented by GIZ showed that over 40% of the graduates from the Ethiopian Universities & other tertiary learning institutions were unemployed. The manufacturing sector expressed major concern about the lack of skills and expertise in the labour market in Ethiopia
  6. Africa needs to build entrepreneurship skills and focus on industrialisation. It is also necessary to establish visionary leadership and political governance to promote the growth of human capital.
  7. A recurring theme in the papers presented was that there must be a commitment by both the academia and business to collaborate and develop skills and employability. This collaboration should include knowledge sharing, trust, communication and the implementation of incentives
  8. There must be a shift in the mind-set that determines how HR manages its function. It can no longer use the same management approach as in the past and HR managers need to adapt and align their departments with the new management strategies.
  9. Routine workplace tasks are being taken over by technology which means varied career choices need to be offered by learning institutions ranging from the industrial sector to technology driven industries.
  10. Work is increasingly becoming knowledge based and greater value addition to the organization is expected from the workforce. Employees will be required to use their analytical and problem solving skills to make critical decisions

Achieving development goals may have a direct or indirect impact on the FM profession in Africa:

FM is a relatively young profession in Africa and has the capacity and opportunity to develop the right skill sets that will contribute to achieving the development goals in Africa.