AfDB staffing review to encourage more local hires, consultants

African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka with staff during a flag raising ceremony at the financial institution’s headquarters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The bank, which has relocated from Tunisia this year, looks into operating with fewer international staff and more locals. Photo by: AfDB

The African Development Bank’s current hiring freeze may be coming to an end in early 2015 — but staff composition and hiring needs could look different within the newly relocated financial institution.

With roughly 60 to 70 percent of its employees already relocated from a temporary office in Tunis to the bank’s former — and perhaps permanent — headquarters in Abidjan, management is likely to consider whether it can operate with fewer international staff and more locals and consultants than in the past, according to David Munyoro, AfDB’s chief recruitment coordination officer.

The AfDB is currently working on a strategic staffing exercise to map employees and hiring needs to its 10-year strategy, which includes a greater emphasis on sectors like climate change and renewable energy, Munyoro said at the Devex Career Forum’s opening plenary in Addis Ababa Wednesday.

In the long aftermath of the global financial crisis, governments continue to put downward pressure on official development budgets. A number of international financial institutions — most notably the World Bank — are reassessing staffing needs to cut costs or realign programs in a shifting landscape.

Munyoro’s update on AfDB’s outlook came amid a conversation with other top recruiting and human resources leaders, convened by Devex to share their thoughts on where the industry is headed — and what that means for job seekers.

Africa’s multilateral development bank is not alone in looking to fill positions as close to the ground as possible.

For instance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — which funds partners instead of hiring implementing staff on the ground — is relocating high-level positions from its headquarters in Seattle to developing country hubs like Addis Ababa, noted Joyce Chew, the foundation’s deputy director of recruiting. The Gates Foundation recently hired a new Africa regional director who will be based in Addis Ababa instead of London, and has identified at least two other formerly Seattle-based leadership positions to be located in the Ethiopian capital.

Chew noted “a very positive trend” that has seen them seek out people who are “close to the work.” She mentioned a “hiring surge” in recent years in China and India, where the foundation has particularly targeted members of the diaspora willing to return home with the skills and experience to make an impact.

For those international organizations that do implement programs, international staff can bring critical specialized skills to the field. However, those foreign employees are increasingly being asked to make training and mentorship a critical part of their job descriptions, said Hellen Kong’ong’o, human resource regional director at RTI International.

“We take great pride in passing on, formally and informally, knowledge to our partners,” Kong’ong’o said, adding that expatriate-filled positions are increasingly viewed as shorter-term appointments to mentor and coach their own eventual local successors.

Building those local skills — through “formal and informal” training — and creating pathways to assemble locally hired teams can help with one of the most difficult aspects of any development program: a good exit strategy, said Celia Kiene, a recruiter with Coffey International.

When implementers hire locally, and do so after facilitating skills development in areas that target their programmatic goals, Kiene explained they can help to build the enabling environment and local ownership to sustain programs beyond the lifetime of a single grant or contract.

Stay tuned as we roll out news and videos from the Devex Partnerships and Career Forum in Addis Ababa over the next few days. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to stay abreast of the latest from Ethiopia and elsewhere.

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.