It is prudent for an author writing about Africa to acknowledge that it is a collection of many different countries, cultures, languages and countless ever changing variables. For that reason, attempting to sum up the African mining labour market as a whole would be ill advised. Equally, describing each country in detail would be an overly complex and never ending challenge which I shall leave to the journalists.
So how then to convey our current view on this market for our executive network? Personally, I see it very much how I see a weather map of Africa. Various fronts crashing into each other on a daily basis creating different outcomes for those on the ground. Extending this metaphor I have come to describe the last 24 months in the African mining space as a perfect storm, albeit with imperfect results for those affected:
Weakened demand from key economies, lack of funding, Ebola, tax disputes, governmental instabilities, and a stark shift in supply and demand of labour & mining services due to pressures elsewhere in the global mining economy. The net effect; fewer opportunities, more competition and depressed salary offers.
So where does that leave us? Well, hopefully on the up! Like many of you, I have grown weary of market predictions and talk of the ‘bottom of the market’. We are in a cyclical sector, that we know, but the global economy has changed and quite when and how the market will turn is difficult to say.
Hope on the horizon
What I can say (and I am pleased to do so) is that I have seen the aforementioned issues or ‘weather fronts’ soften to various degrees which gives me hope for the region. I shan’t go into details for competitive reasons, but I can tell you that my mining practice and I are extremely busy recruiting across various functions onto African mine sites who are in some cases bucking the trend but in others; riding specific commodity conditions.
I am also delighted to report that we are helping some of our Private Equity connections build new mining companies, which is another excellent market indicator, especially for those candidates struggling in the corporate space where opportunities have been scarce. Yes, they are hyper selective on who receives their funds but rightly so. As someone from the PE community commented to me at Mines and Money, they are not obliged to make investments; their core skill is knowing when to hang onto capital. We have also seen in-house M&A recruitment increase in London which is exciting for both our corporate team and the industry as a whole.
It is also good to see many of our clients thinking strategically about retention by not offering low salaries to new hires in executive Mine site positions. This also tells me they sense recovery is on the horizon and want to keep their people when that day comes.
So to those in gainful employment, I urge that you don’t keep your head down and potentially miss a career defining role by assuming the market is suppressed. Remain passive and keep an eye on things. To those currently seeking work, I urge you to persist without getting stressed. Make the most of this time with loved ones while you can because the storm will surely clear. For those not yet accustomed with a passive search who would like to test the market; please contact us.
Article written by James Young | Head of Practice, Mining at ExtractiveSearch