Managing Human and Intellectual Capital for Sustaining African Organisations

By Hamid H. Kazeroony, Yvonne du Plessis, Bill Buenar Puplampu

In this article, the authors examine the needs of African organisations for human and intellectual capital and suggest how they should work with governments and the educational system to acquire, retain, and develop higher performing talent. Such efforts would create more dynamic and productive organisations to serve African growth.

 

African organisations to function and compete effectively in the global marketplace require particular focus on managing human and intellectual capital.

African continent, since the end of colonial era, which calumniated in the collapse of apartheid in South Africa in 1994, completing the transition, has undergone numerous social, political, economic, and cultural changes impacting management and organisational processes. The transitions within this period gave rise to a new set of human and organisational challenges in each African country in addition to the emergence of social and economic demands by various stakeholders for managing various resources (Kazeroony, 2016). To address their human and intellectual capital needs, African organisations – as stakeholders in their respective countries – should work with their governments and higher education institutions to expand capacity and address social, political, and cultural influencers in the development of human capital. They should continually examine their internal organisational dynamics and organisational practices and relate these to the current and emerging African market conditions within the global economy (Kazeroony, Du Plessis, & Puplampu, 2016). It is only through such focused attention that human capacity may be enhanced to serve African organisations. In this paper, we share a few thoughts on how these may be realised.

 

Macro and Micro Issues in Human Capital Development

At the macro level, public organisations such as the African Capacity Building Organization (ACBF) (What Do We Do, n.d.) help with a variety of financial and expertise resources to advance capacity building for governmental and private actors directly, addressing the human and intellectual needs of organisations for growth and innovation. In addition, organisations such as the African Development Bank Group have been very active in supporting the growth of human capital by engaging in projects that would benefit gender diversity to maximise the human capital utilisation while expanding support for higher education developments in enlarging the intellectual capital pool for African organisations (Capacity Building, n.d.). These represent tangential efforts by non-State actors to influence skill development. However, as the President of Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf noted, African governments may develop policies quickly to address capacity building, however, implementation, prioritisation, and governance issues pose difficult obstacles (Ratcliffe, 2013).

At the micro level, individuals attempting to build their intellectual capacity, face multiple obstacles such as lack of family financial means, lack of educated family members understanding particular needs for success, and limited pathways for access to and progress through higher education.

Higher Education Institutions are the actors who connect the human and intellectual capital requirements of organisations to the individuals who seek skill development and the marketplace which “consumes” talent.

African Higher Education Institutions currently face many challenges including policy gaps, resource constraints, and brain drain. Each of these challenges underscore the need for reform and changes in public policies, collaboration with the private sector, and attention to the gaps between foundational knowledge gained at the elementary and secondary schools and the curricula for developing human and intellectual capital at the higher education end of the spectrum.

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Public funding of higher education as a part of the infrastructure crucial to the development of human and intellectual capital has remained uneven and subject to governments’ revenue stream. For example, for two decades, the Botswana government, using its mineral revenue, supported the development of higher education to grow its human and intellectual capital (Mpabanga, 2016). However, as commodity prices declined, the Botswana government along with many others in Africa could not sustain high expenditures on Higher Education (HE) in Ghana freezes on wages, recruitments and percentage allocation of government budget resources have been used to deal with dwindling resource options. In addition, regulatory liberalisations have been used to allow private operators into the HE sector to reduce the pressure on government spending.

There is no evidence of systematic integration of current and future industry skill needs with universities’ curricula design processes for sustainable development of human and intellectual capital. However, there are isolated cases where particular universities have adopted limited integration of some aspects of required industry skills into their programs. Examples can be found at Strathmore University Business program in Kenya; Central University in Ghana and Pan African University in Nigeria.

Finally, political issues such as terrorism in Somali and north-western Africa, and Nigeria, war in countries such as South Sudan and Central African Republic, and party in-fighting in places such as South Africa has had debilitating effects on primary and secondary education, destroying bridges to the higher education, and diminishing the higher education capacity to build the human and intellectual capital required by African organisations. The current “Fees Must Fall” protests (News24, 2016) within higher education institutions in South Africa are crippling opportunities for many scholars and do not contribute positively to the developmental landscape in the country and the African continent. We are at present witness to the political and policy impasse in South Africa regarding the “fees-must-fall” conundrum confronting that country.

 

Role of Agencies and Organisations in Building Human Capital

While international agencies such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, just to name two, have been helping to build the higher education infrastructure in Africa (African Development, 2009; Africa, 2015), the African needs for sustainable human and intellectual capital requires localised attention in each country. For example, while some universities have benefited from prestigious accreditations status publicly stating their capacity to produce high quality human and intellectual capital to conform to international standards others have not had the resources nor support from existing policy frameworks to be as effective.

Education and human capacity must be built in ways which recognise and require uniquely African constructs embedded in African symbolisms, values, and cultures.

Many countries in Africa have national accreditation systems which oversee the HE sector. It is increasingly important that the educational policy directives issued by political actors in government address the gradual integration of Africa into global economy. It is also important that African organisations create their own sphere of influence to inform educational policy. In Ghana, there is a National Accreditation Board and a National Council on Tertiary Education. As an example, these two agencies ought to examine the peculiar African dilemmas and needs and build up credible human capital approaches which are context located rather than follow the Western organisational models. Education and human capacity must be built in ways which recognise and require uniquely African constructs embedded in African symbolisms, values, and cultures (Puplampu, 2016). It is also important that civil society actors must develop research models which expose the unique skill needs of different places in Africa. Research bodies must spearhead active and interventionist research which offers direct access to information which can be used to change educational policy. This would require links with industry, business regulators, scientific agencies and HEs.

African organisations are communities where relationships are imperative to the operation of the work as manifested by the concept of Ubuntu.

Unlike Western organisational models where relationships are built around the core values of organisation, rooted in organisational culture and enforced by a set of organisational policies and procedures outlined in their human resource manual, African organisations are communities where relationships are imperative to the operation of the work as manifested by the concept of Ubuntu (Bobina & Grachev, 2016). In addition, concepts such as Burungi bwansi (coming together in addressing the community needs) and Kirinju (the one with a grey hair) provide unique African perspectives regarding relationships and hierarchy within African organisations (Mutungi, Mutungi, & Fuentes, 2016). It is; therefore, important for scholars in management in Africa to work to unearth the complicated but viable nexus between some of the traditional cultural nuances noted above and the global demands for formalised procedure and organisational structures as well as the flexibilities demand by globalisation, ICTs and fast changing market situations. These understandings will be crucial if HEs are going to develop the required talent for the future of African organisations and if these organisations are aiming to successfully acquire, retain, and develop the necessary human and intellectual capital to become competitive in their respective industries.

 

The Sustainable Path to the Future

The prospects and views we share above will be important to enable organisations to work with higher educational institutions to shape curricula for developing the required human and intellectual capital.

We contend that managing human and intellectual capital for sustaining African organisations require a holistic approach which

  1. addresses the need for alignment between primary, secondary, and higher education curricular development and implementation,
  2. aligns and dedicates public funding and private foundations for projected human and intellectual capital for responding to each country’s organisations’ needs going forward
  3. supports the conduct of internal diagnostics by organisations to determine their inner dynamics and organisational models and assess their human capacity needs and translate these into practical curricula for universities
  4. facilitates the development of organisational processes to actively help recruit, retain, and develop internally and
  5. promotes relevant stakeholder dialogues which communicate and synergises organisational, economic, social and political agendas and with human capital needs so as to inform public policy and relevant actors.

Featured image courtesy: University of Ghana

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About the Author

Hamid H. Kazeroony is Professor of the PhD Management program at Walden University, he is the co-editor of Sustainable Management Development in Africa (Routledge, 2016), Capitalism and Social Relationship (Palgrave, 2014), The Routledge Companion to International Management Education (Routledge, 2013), and The Strategic Management of Higher Education Institutions (Business Expert Press, 2011).


Yvonne du Plessis is Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Strategic Human Resource Management at School of Business and Governance at the North-West University, South Africa.


Bill Buenar Puplampu is Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Chartered Psychologist of the British Psychological Society and the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Affairs)

Central University, Ghana.

 

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