Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, has fired 48 members of staff. According to PUNCH Nigeria, those sacked were made up of 36 expatriates and 12 Nigerian workers from the group’s headquarters and one of the subsidiaries, Dangote Cement Plc.

The rising wages paid to these foreign internationals (who receive payments in foreign currency denominations) as a result of the sharp fall in the naira is reportedly behind the firm’s decision. These employees have consequently been replaced with Nigerians who possess the necessary experience and who will be paid in the local currency.

Dangote Cement is only one of many Nigerian outfits employing expats to fill certain strategic positions. The specific skill sets of these expats in many cases are necessary to advance the certain company objectives, especially for firms that operate internationally. Some positions occupied by expats cannot be replicated locally. For example, a Chinese worker who acts as the point of contact between a local company and a Chinese company would be difficult to replace. Even if a local mastered the Chinese language, he may not be as effective in that position because of certain cultural factors and racial biases that may still play out in that part of the world.

That said, it is imperative that international firms constantly look for ways to train local talent to fill those positions occupied by expats where skills can be transferrable.

In a letter titled ‘Recent Retirement Exercise’, and signed by the President/Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, the firm stated that it was constrained to take the “tough” decision as economic factors had affected the cost of production. As it becomes more expensive to remunerate workers in foreign currency, the need to ensure that expatriates do more than just deliver services in a vacuum becomes more pertinent.

These foreign professionals should be required to train locals to take up the responsibility in the future. Alternatively, companies may look to invest in training programmes and apprenticeship schemes that could hasten employees’ professional growth and equip them to seamlessly occupy roles normally given to expats. Such a structure could ensure costs involved in foreign currency translations are reduced as well as increase the likelihood that money paid to employees would be recycled in the local economy.

The decision by Dangote group may have been borne out of necessity rather than planning or principle but it is an example to be followed as it benefits the concerned companies and the local economy in the long run.

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