Emerging Markets: South Africa’s Career Prospects for 2014

Emerging Markets: South Africa’s Career Prospects for 2014

With a population of 51.8 million people, South Africa is a diverse country. On the one hand, you will find well-developed industrial hubs and cities as good as any in the ‘developed’ world, and on the other, there are scores of laid-back regions with slow economic growth. There is a clear divide between the haves and have-nots here.

Emerging Markets 2014: South Africa’s Career Prospects

Still, the country has enormous growth potential and is one of the emerging BRICS economies (with Brazil, Russia, India and China). South Africa shares borders with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland in the African continent, and has built a reputation as a reliable and safe transport hub that boasts major airports and seaports. Cape Town harbor has recently been restructured and is among the most modern ports in the world, offering the biggest container port facilities in the Southern hemisphere.

Enjoy high salaries, expat benefits – in South Africa

Cape Town Harbour, South Africa

South Africa’s economy was the first to show signs of recovery post recession. From 2010 to 2020, the country aims to create 5 million new jobs. Government policies are focusing on six key sectors, including infrastructure development, agriculture, mining, the ‘green’ economy, manufacturing, and tourism, to unlock employment opportunities. Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are the top economic centers in the country.

The latest Salary Trends Survey by ECA International says that employees in South Africa will receive 7% salary increases this year.

Sectors in focus


South Africa, and the African continent as a whole, is synonymous with mining. In 2013, the sector contributed 20% to the country’s GDP, drawing on the natural bounty of gold, platinum, chromium, iron ore and diamonds. South Africa has top-notch processing facilities, has introduced technologies like coal-to-liquid facilities, and is rightly considered a world leader in mining. Senior professionals with extensive experience in mining operations are always in demand, and companies are willing to pay top dollar to attract the right talent for these roles.


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Manufacturing, chemicals and agriculture

South Africa is among the Top 25 countries, as far as its chemical industry is concerned. The manufacturing business sector – especially automotives – too is vibrant. Many international car manufacturers have production lines in the country, and these companies often seek out expats to manage and run their operations smoothly.



South Africa manufactures and exports vehicles and components. Vehicle manufacturers like BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Renault, Toyota and Volkswagen run production plants in South Africa, and component manufacturers such as Arvin Exhaust, Bloxwitch, Corning, Senior Flexonics have established production bases. The sector contributes 6% to the country’s GDP and accounts for 12% of manufacturing exports. South Africa employs 28,000 people in automotive manufacturing, with a further 65,000 involved in automotive component manufacturing. Retail and aftermarket activities provide a livelihood to 200 thousand people, with 6,600 employed in tire manufacturing alone. In 2010, South Africa exported 271,000 vehicles.

Companies with production plants in South Africa are well-placed to take advantage of low production costs, coupled with access to new markets as a result of trade agreements with the European Union. As such, the industry attracts and provides ample opportunities for senior managers, also in production of materials such as automotive steel and components.


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South Africa is looking at growth in technical skills’ recruitment. The country is already among the 20 biggest consumers in the world, of computer and IT services. Economists are predicting strong economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa, further driving growth in this sector. Right now, there’s a shortage of 20,000 to 70,000 ICT professionals in South Africa, at a time when organizations are increasingly taking to social media to push connectivity and growth. Profiles in demand include those of social media specialist and social media developer,

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along with a keen focus on recruiting senior professionals like Data Scientists and Big Data Specialists with experience in mining and processing ‘Big Data’. People with degree and diploma qualifications and with experience in current technologies, software development, networking, cloud computing, virtualization, unified communications, etc. are sought-after. Most in demand are skilled Project Managers, application developers, software quality assurance testers, business analysts, mobile application developers and device managers.


Finance, real estate, services and tourism

The financial system in Africa is rated as one of the more stable systems worldwide. Banking is robust and well-regulated too. In 2013, South Africa had over 14 million tourist arrivals, and this number is only set to grow. Tourism and allied sectors are key to the economy.


Approach towards international workers

South Africa is the wealthiest country in Africa, and has very good private healthcare and excellent private schools. Expatriates are paid extremely well and also enjoy risk benefits from their employers. Most companies offer housing, along with schooling for children, company transport (cars), and ample leave – including paid flights back home to the employee’s country. Medical insurance is often part of the compensation package, and includes medical evacuation coverage. In the mining industry, companies might hire people on a ‘rotation’ basis, where professionals work for 7-8 weeks at a stretch at the mine location, and then get a couple of weeks off to visit home.

Where key sectors like mining, manufacturing, construction, trade and financial, real estate and business services (FREBS) are concerned, the trend in South Africa is to move away from hiring regular workers and to focus on hiring highly skilled ‘specialist’ professionals. Even as the overall economy remains sluggish in the aftermath of the recession, salaries of employees in the highly skilled bracket are growing at a fast clip, beating inflation and providing for cushy lifestyles. In fact, 13% of companies surveyed indicated that they will be employing new staff this year.

Business Meeting

Corporate South Africa is looking at retention or acquisition of highly skilled professionals in senior management. The critical shortage of such skills has convinced companies to pay a premium to acquire and retain these skills. The major employment growth is being driven by the large-scale infrastructural development projects associated with the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, the country’s Expanded Public Works Program, as well as other major energy and transport-related industries.

On the whole, South Africa is keen on bringing in skilled foreigners to drive economic growth. It is among the few countries that issue ‘quota work permits’ for selected professions, allowing foreign nationals with the required qualifications/ experience to enter the country and then seek a job in their chosen field of work. If you meet the requirements, you could apply at a South African mission in your country or approach the Home Affairs offices within South Africa. 56 professions have been identified for these ‘quota work permits’, including dozens of roles in science and engineering, health and education, ICT, agricultural sciences, management and commerce. The only conditions are that the jobseeker should have at least 5 years of work experience and be registered with his or her relevant professional body.

Make sure you’re ready to to take your career to CEO level and succeed. Sign up to the CI Executive Career Management programme and get access to a Career Coach to guide and coach you through your journey to board level. Also don’t forget to keep a lookout for the top roles that become available in emerging markets.

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  • http://www.moneyweb.co.za/moneyweb-south-africa/companies-in-sa-forecasting-7-pay-increases-next-y
  • http://www.itnewsafrica.com/2013/11/arm-yourselves-with-the-right-tech-skills-for-2014/
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About the author

Jamie McDermott

Involved in Business Development and Technologies at Career Intelligence. Based in the Fleet Street, London office since the start of 2014.

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