Workforce Sustainability


By 2050, Africa will account for half of the world’s population growth, and by 2100, its current over 1 billion population could quadruple. Population projections from the United Nations estimate a workforce of 1 billion Africans by 2050, an increase in the continent’s share of the global workforce from 12 to 23 percent. This could sound good but has its accompanying challenges.

Workforce sustainability is a strategy to ensure peak performance among labour. It has the aim of attracting and retaining the right people and ensuring growth in human capital, which will ultimately build a resilient, engaged and high performing workforce.

A sustainable workforce contributes to the fate of people, profit, and planet alike. They provide employers with the skills, engagement, and retention needed to generate profit and innovations, which will in turn fuel the economy and build the society. Sustainable work practices equip individuals and families with economic resources and opportunities for growth (personally and professionally). However, Africa still grapples with ensuring workforce sustainability within its large population.

The first challenge to Workforce Sustainability in the African society is the Lack of Skills. ManpowerGroup’s eighth annual Talent Shortage Survey found that 35 percent of employers on average report having difficulty filling jobs due to a lack of available talent. This is the highest shortage since the start of the global recession. Young women and men looking for their first jobs are better prepared for a smooth transition from school to work when they are given adequate vocational education and training opportunities, including in-work apprenticeships and on-the-job experience. Members of the workforce need opportunities to update their skills and learn new ones at regular intervals.

According to a human capital study by PwC, emerging economies have the highest demand for skill in the world. At one point in time, these countries relied on cheap labour to fuel their export-driven economies. However, their economic model is changing and, as a result, they have to rapidly move up the value chain – or risk faltering. The number of men and women in employment and their productivity at work is directly proportional to the available opportunities to acquire and maintain relevant skills. It is a known fact to Countries, enterprises and persons that skills development is strategic and important to high productivity, therefore they seek to step up investments in skills. In aspiring to realize the potential of skills development, they meet with the same challenges.

Another major challenge of Workforce Sustainability in Africa is Gender Inequality in Employment and Education. The system of patriarchy has eaten deep into the fabric of the African culture such that the recent interventions for gender quality have not been able to solve the issues at hand. It is true that many countries around the world have made significant progress towards gender equality in education in recent decades. Today, girls outperform boys in some areas of education and are less likely to drop out of school than boys are. However, that is just a minute part of the whole challenge; women continue to earn less than men, they are less likely to make it to the top of the career ladder, and are more likely to end their lives in poverty.

In addition, the Inherent Cultural Diversity in Africa has so far been a challenge while working towards a sustainable workforce. This is because the multicultural nature of the society brings about nepotism, tribalism and cronyism. Nepotism, tribalism and cronyism will, on the long run allow less- skilled personnel on the job. This will lead to substandard labour and low quality product or service. This depletes the morale of the other staff and on the long run; they are not motivated to be productive. The commitment, sense of ownership and loyalty of the other employees nose-dives and then they begin to seek exit from the company. This not only affects the company but also affects the general workforce of the society/economy because it depletes the quality of the economy’s workforce. Nepotism, cronyism and tribalism are major sources of demotivation and dissatisfaction among workers.

Another challenge facing the achievement of a Sustainable workforce is Low Investment in Human Capital and Weak Education System. In the more developed economies like the US, Japan and Germany, skills are precious commodities to them. These economies maximally invest in Human capital through education and lifelong learning but African countries hardly do. Low investment in human capital and a weak education system depletes skills and knowledge, thereby, reducing chances of attaining a sustainable workforce.

Going forward, how can developing economies combat this plague hindering the attainment of a sustainable workforce?

To be continued

ThistlePraxis Consulting

Research Team



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Okoroafor, E.C. & Iheriohanma, E.B.J, Patriarchy, Gender Equality and the Implications for Productive Development of the Nigerian Worker, European Scientific Journal August 2014 edition Vol.10, No.23

Soekpil Kim (2014, October 7) The Challenge of Filling Skills Gap in Emerging Economies The Guardian Retrieved from

Nadler, Judy, and Miriam Schulman. “Favouritism,Cronyism and Nepotism.” Santa Clara University, 23 Oct. 2015. Web. 8 Aug. 2016.

Lakshminarasimhan, Suba. “Nepotism: Is It a Boon or Bane for the Organization?” Bright Hub, 22 Sept. 2011. Web. 8 Aug. 2016.

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