Africa Business Communities

[Interview] Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, CEO Jack Hammer, South Africa

CEO of South African executive search firm Jack Hammer, Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, discusses the growing shift from expat hire to local executive leadership in African organizations.

Would you please introduce the firm Jack Hammer?

Jack Hammer is rated in the top three executive search firms in South Africa and through our IRC partnership, in the top three globally.

For the past almost two decades, Jack Hammer has partnered with South African and international organisations to secure exceptional talent – advancing their business strategies, reducing their risk and delivering return on investment in the challenging and shifting landscapes that we find in Africa.

Our executive consultants who lead Jack Hammer’s Africa practise understand the socio-political and corporate complexities that define our continent.  They’re capable of assessing not only the technical competencies, but also the cultural agility required of executives working in Africa.

In which countries does Jack Hammer operate?

Jack Hammer has on-the-ground presence in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Ghana, Nigeria and Egypt, and we operate in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia.

What did you do before assuming the role of CEO of Jack Hammer?

My background is somewhat unconventional - in my former career I was a choreographer and theatre director, which I did whilst acquiring my law degree.

What corporate positions in Africa does Jack Hammer specialize in filling?

We source at Board, C-Suite, Executive and senior management levels, across a wide range of functions, helping companies fill their toughest roles, where the pool of great people is in highest demand.

Would you say that the expertise that expats bring is in balance with the costs of their incorporation into African organizations?

This depends on a few factors including the location and the type of industry. If the industry is underdeveloped in a country, there is a lot of value of bringing in an expat with industry knowledge. This needs to be coupled with some local and regional business knowledge. Any expat appointment needs to be supported by an actionable plan to develop local national skills in order to be able to replace the expat.

Have you, in your capacity, observed a growing trend of sourcing for local corporate leadership as opposed to the practice of foreign hire?

Yes, I most certainly have.

What do you believe is causing this shift?

Two major themes.  Firstly: localization and regulatory requirements are increasingly demanding local representation at executive level therefore.

Secondly: Africa is no longer regarded as a homogenous ‘developing market’ and specific local market knowledge is required for success – whether that comes from an expat with deep knowledge and understanding of specific markets OR a local executive with experience in country; there seems to be an understanding that country specific local knowledge (cultural, macro and micro economics) is needed for successful entry and growth in these markets.

Which countries are leading this trend of local leadership in your opinion?

Nigeria and Kenya.

What can you say about the targets, plans and ambitions of Jack Hammer in 2017?

Jack Hammer is expanding its reach in several African markets, supporting leadership recruitment strategies through research, data and insights.

We intend to support not only multi-national companies established or invested in Africa, but also local African businesses in their appointment of leaders - both expatriates or local nationals. Further, we hope to increase our presence in several more countries by 2018.

Which African countries do you predict will perform best in 2017?

Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia. Kenya is furthering its postion as a strong regional hub for businesses in Africa, together with a planned railway from Mombasa through Uganda and Rwanda which will provide a direct transportation route via rail. All three have invested in their country and present attractive opportunities to potential investors.


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