HR Leaders in Africa 2013 — WHAT MANNER OF AFRICANS

A beautiful aspect of humanity is his ability to turn around his challenges into opportunities, and his prospects into success.  The drive for success makes most right-thinking people seek to obtain his best. Self-actualization, as popularized by Abraham Maslow, is a vital route to happiness and success through commitment and dedication to an important job, a worthwhile task, a noble calling, or a meaningful service. Mostly, people are happy when they work well at something they consider important. Nigerians are disenfranchised mostly because the basic needs of life such as regular power supply, pipe-borne water, stable employment, conducive business environment, good road networks and other infrastructures are not available to the masses.  People being the most important resources to organizations and nations, their happiness determines the peace and tranquility of the nation or organization, and this is the main essence of H.R. (Human Resources).

Major characteristics of management are planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling.  Managers are often expected to be a lot of things to various sets of people and circumstances at one point or the other. However, for any type of business to thrive,  effective human resources management is very essential, and guarantees adequate employment, optimum output, and congenial environment for business operations. HR specialists and personnel determines the number and type of employees required in any organization, recruits new staff and workers, replace those who have left or leaving, organizes the training of staff and employees,  encourages workers’ productivity, efficiency, and satisfaction to promote the overall success of the business.  Compensation and benefits while in employment and at the time of retirement or severance of engagement are structured and determined by the HR.

We the People

People are the most important resource of a nation or any organization. The cardinal vocation of the Human Resources (HR) professional, organization, and department is to make sure that the human capital are recruited and engaged to the greatest benefit of the government department and organization according to the greatest abilities of the people, for the purpose of gainful returns to the nation and its people in material and intrinsic benefits.

Organizational trends and international trade and relations have grown at a fast pace since the dawn of Industrial Revolution. The growth rate improved with the computer age, and became more fierce and faster as the internet explosion transformed the world into a global village. This current situation has moved the HR practitioner from the historical role of a personnel manager to hire and fire, under the whims and caprice of an overrated administration manager, into a highly competent and efficient human capital and resource controller. The 21st century is a fast changing world in which nations and organizations become more entrepreneurial in spirit, more focused in learning, and more competitive in their approaches to handling human capital, material wealth and general resources.  A combative HR practice and practitioners that would rise up to the challenges of the moment has become highly imperative.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administers a nationwide merit system for general employment of federal personnel, their recruitment, examination, and training in various arms of government at home and abroad. The department is well-known for performing its functions without bias, with equal opportunity, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or age. How much one wishes it is so in Nigeria!

For decades the world stood aside and watched as the population of China continues to rise. Today China has transformed the challenge in her population of 1.3 billion people into her advantages and influences. For an unusually long stretch of years, China has enjoyed the world’s most rapid economic growth.  Not by accident or luck, but because Chinese policies conformed to the basic laws of economic development and national growth. Under good leadership, China undertook economic reforms of combined socialism and favorable aspects of market economy that has worked wonders in the tiger economies. By reversing self-reliance economic policies and opening up to the global market, the Chinese came to realize that “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice”, and that “Poverty is not socialism. To be rich is glorious.”

Current Challenges

According to The World Bank, Nigeria’s unemployment rate now stands at 56 per cent. This is grossly unacceptable. Even the European countries that are currently undergoing economic crisis record unemployment rates averaging between 25 and 27 per cent. While government agencies and departments cannot manufacture jobs, adequate management of human resources could go a long way to expose anomalies and proffer effective ways out of the logjam. There is need for good governance to put in place sound micro economic and macroeconomic frameworks that will remove the irregularity.

As the sixth largest oil-producing country in the world, it is sad that Nigeria could not refine her crude oil, but rather import petroleum products from foreign countries. During our elementary school days, the pencil, eraser, and sharpener used in school came from China. The story is still the same today. Our roads and highways, bridges and dams are constructed by foreign companies.  School uniforms were sown from materials imported from China. The denim pants, skirts, blouses and shoes of the teachers and pupils were made in India, China or Korea.  Asian pasta, rice and noodles have taken over from local dishes and delicacies. Hospitals, pharmacies and drug stores have suddenly been overtaken by the Ginseng regimes and cheap medicaments from India, China and Pakistan. The trendy cars on the roads are the Suzukis and the Tatas. When the Orientals, Europeans and Americans dominate the key sectors of the economy, how could one expect full employment for the nationals? It is a leadership problem that needed to be fixed by personnel managers and character change.

HR Africa must help African nations to manage its human assets to the best, and more strategically to the extent that the people at home could meet higher level of performance with greater profitability, while Africans seeking greener pastures overseas could happily return home to the honorable service to fatherland. Mostly, HR Africa must help African nations build and put in place credible and competent leadership – men that could not be bought or sold, men that would fear God and respect people, men that would lead for the singular purpose of public service for public good, and not to amass personal wealth from the coffers of the public.

Peter Drucker transformed corporate management with Management by Objectives, (MBO), a process by which corporate goals are set with the agreement and understanding of both management and employees. Management goals are set and made clear to both staff and employees so that they know their specific roles, and aspire to do it for successful goal attainment. As a result, corporate performances improved through participative goal setting, open avenues to make choices in respective courses of action, and the deliberate empowerment of each cadre to make judgment and decisions in line with set goals and focus.

As meaningful management results are obtainable in public institutions and civil service just as experienced in the corporate sector, Managing for Results  is the practice to get desired results within the economy, especially in government, through the development of management practices, products and services that:

  1. Gives prime attention to the customer,
  2. Encourage entrepreneurial based market strategy geared towards a profound and prominent presence in the market,
  3. Timely innovations directed at taking full benefits of the advantages and opportunities of the moment.

When civil service is transformed to be market and service oriented, and not waiting for patronage from the public, desired results and expected transformation will take place, public revenues will improve to build infrastructures, and everybody will be happy.

The transformation needed within the Nigerian economy is the provision of effective leadership. The top cadres of government function and operations must show effective and profound leadership attributes and qualities. How could they do this when their appointments were not by merit, but through political party affiliations and nepotism? The Nigerian people should be guided to take part in elections and the voting process. Full participation in elections through credible voting process will put people’s candidates of choice in position of authority to effect people oriented programs and ethos.

The challenge before HR Africa is to guide Nigeria and Nigerians to make sure Nigeria has “the very best people to carry your vision out. Hire those most capable of turning visions into reality – ask questions about how they might go about attacking a particular thorny problem. Promote those people who have the best record of making things happen.” These kinds of people are the Champions.

Nigerians are desirous of the champion that will be her king and judge her people in truth and in faith. To carry out such great task goes beyond the common aspects of learning and training, but through the application of talents and gifts to do what initially seemed impossible. It requires planning and dedicated pursuit. That is why it takes rigorous and painstaking primaries to choose an American President, which could be replicated in Nigeria.

For Reformation to come to The Church and the world, with its attendant fundamental changes, a Martin Luther must by force of will and ideas stand up against the Papal Bulls.

For  Americans to have an African-American President, a Martin Luther King, Jr., must have a vision and lay his life for The Dream.

For India to be free from the clout and excesses of the British, a Mahatma Gandhi had to go from South Africa to let his people go in India.

For Nigeria to have the desired non-violent revolution that would bring about credible leadership, national transformation and development, the agents of change and human resources development, the architects of strategic leadership and transformation, HR Leaders in Africa, must take up the gauntlet to penetrate into the affairs and reins of power to elicit change.

After the mandatory National Youth Corps Service, many of us applied to work at the NEXIM Bank through the Central Bank of Nigeria. We went through grueling examinations and interviews and came out in flying colors. But on the day of recruitment, other candidates out of the blues were employed. As the scourges of nepotism can never break a tough guy, most of us moved on, and did better afterwards, praying “for the peace of Nigeria: because, they shall prosper that love Nigeria.”

Cement was too expensive in Nigeria, and the government effected its backward integration programme to the favor of the mighty against the little. Our heavy investments in the sector were crushed, business was lost, income ceased, and losses mounted. Many workers, employees, indirect jobbers and their families were thrown out of stable employment into the job market with losses and grinding limitations. Cement is still very expensive in Nigeria today. Nevertheless, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”.

A young Ugandan girl was living in the city ghettos with her parent and siblings. Chess training and competition was organized near the slum by a concerned coach with the attraction of a cup of corn pap per day. This poor girl, who had been without food for some time, jumped at the offer, and attended the coaching solely because of the cup of corn-pap. She trained well and became the champion; she later became the best player in her country, in Africa, and one of the best players in the world. What an unconventional approach to talent hunt you might say, but God still rules in affairs of man to perfect His wonders.

Nehemiah was a Jewish cup-bearer of the Persian king Artaxerxes around 446 BC. Though living in wellness, prosperity and peace, he became troubled when he learnt that news came to him that the wall of Jerusalem had been broken down and the gates of the city of God had been burned with fire. Nehemiah realized, as an Israelite, that his brethren were in distress and needed his support. He resolved to take up their burden and do all he could to relief their situation. Under Nehemiah’s devout life and prayerful mien with energetic administration, the walls of Jerusalem were repaired within two months, the city was once again secured, economic and social reforms were put in place, and the glory of the land and the people were restored. What a case study for HR Leaders in Africa to ponder upon.

Could you be a Nehemiah for Nigeria in times like this, and what manner of African it would be?

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