Unlocking African workforce productivity: The importance of a procurement strategy


By: Visanagiri Sabari Girish -- Analyst, HR Services (Employee Benefits)

01 January, 2017

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AFRICA is a continent rich in natural resources; global business leaders recognise it as the world’s future economic growth engine. However, Africa’s peoples face an acute challenge (i.e., the loss of human capital) due to the rapid growth of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in the workforce. The World Health Organization (WHO) identified four risky behaviours for NCDs among Africans: (1) tobacco; (2) alcohol use; (3) physical inactivity and (4) an unhealthy diet. To address three out of these four behaviours, African employers have proactively introduced popular Western concepts into the workplace (i.e., employee assistance programmes, or EAPs) as part of healthcare interventions to address the mental wellbeing of the workforce; other initiatives include HIV/AIDS management, health and productivity management and health assessments. Remarkably, the global EAP supplier Chestnut Global Partners (CGP) estimated that the EAP utilisation rate in Africa was only about 1.8 percent in 2015, whereas the global utilisation rate was around 7 percent for that same year. When we assess the root cause of low utilisation, we need to look at how the programme is currently operating. From the supplier’s perspective, an EAP’s success primarily depends on employee proactiveness, which is subject to the motivation to receive counselling from business psychologists on various issues associated with one’s work and personal life. It will be a practical challenge for human resources (HR) departments to maintain employee enthusiasm on an ongoing basis. One reason could be that most of these healthcare interventions are operated or approached by companies in an isolated manner due to supplier engagement (i.e., for each healthcare intervention programme, there is a different supplier). Hence, this article examines how procurement strategies can play a vital role in boosting employees’ motivation for project success and the feasibility of the supplier engagement model in Africa, in addition to cost savings for implementing holistic employee health and wellbeing in the workplace.

The outlook of employee health and wellbeing:

A strategy Around the world, business communities and academic research institutions have observed the link between workforce health and company productivity, as well as the need to create preventative healthcare intervention programmes in the workplace. These programmes differ by country, depending on the health risk profiles of the existing and future workforces.

In general, most companies tend to practise country-level health and wellbeing, which align with corporate health and wellbeing. Yet in terms of Africa as a continent—irrespective of the country an enterprise operates in—employing a regional-level strategy will have a greater impact on workforce health and company productivity, as the health risk profile of the workforce remains the same.

Facts on EAPs in Africa:

To address three of the four key risky behaviours identified by the WHO, African employers have proactively introduced popular Western concepts into the workplace (e.g., EAPs) as part of healthcare intervention programmes to address the physical wellbeing of the workforce, along with other programmes such as HIV/AIDS management, health and productivity management and health assessments. For example, the oil industry giant Chevron donated USD 23,500 (2009–2013) to an EAP in South Africa.


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