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Charles Sekwalor is the founder of Movemeback, a members-only community that connects professionals with career and business opportunities in Africa. He’ll also be speaking at SheHive London this year. We spoke to Charles about moving back —what to expect, what to pack and how to deal with (reverse) culture shock.

What do you think is driving the increase in diaspora moving back to Africa?

I think that there are 4 factors here but it is a trend that has developed over time.

  • Opportunity: In the last couple of years there has been a narrative about Africa rising. This is essentially a period of opportunity where people have become increasingly optimistic about Africa and the role its starting to play economically in the world.
  • Challenges: There’s been a slowdown in the global economy and so we’ve seen multinationals making more and more of a play for Africa, the local expansion of markets, increasing press coverage and universities focusing on recruitment from Africa.
  • Cultural changes: This new generation or millennials think slightly differently as to how they go about their careers. They are thinking 2-3 years at a time as opposed to long term careers like the generation before them. These people are far more open to try new things and experience work in different regions.
  • Macro factor: Globalisation is also a big factor as we no longer live in countries with borders. Markets have become more accessible and so people have become more open to moving to other African countries different from their home country.

What are the Top 5 things you need to pack with you when you’re moving back to Africa?

  • Your personal escape – whether its music, a good book, hobby
  • Your address book (or MMB login) – everything you do on the continent will most likely rely on the connections you have or will make in the future.
  • Foreign currency – for emergencies
  • Mobile phone – the minute you land, everything will be done with your phone. Make sure you already have plans to get a local sim.
  • Guilty pleasures – luxuries that are difficult to come by in Africa such as special sweets or food.

Big company vs startup? What is your opinion on the type of company to join when moving back to Africa?

There’s no right answer here and there doesn’t have to be a single answer. It’s very much a personal decision and journey that everyone needs to go on depending on what they’re looking for. It can also be a transition from big company to your own startup.

There are 5 questions everyone should ask themselves:

  • What is this company aiming to do?
  • What is my role and my ability to influence change in the broader sense?
  • How does the cultural fit of the organization align with me?
  • How much support and structure am I looking for at this stage? If you’re already moving back and it’s a new experience a start up environment can provide a little too much ambiguity and lack of structure. Then again, it depends on the individual
  • What are my financial needs? How much financial stability do I need going forward? In theory, a corporate job should be offering a little more financial stability.

What can people expect from their benefits package when they move to Africa?

This varies massively by region, sector and level but there are 5 things to consider:

  • Experience many people will take an absolute pay cut to maintain their quality of life.
  • You should expect something that is locally competitive but will not seem so when compared internationally to cities like London and New York. This is for obvious reasons such as the cost of living being higher there.
  • Expect to be paid in local currency and at the very least in the mid-term.
  • Expect employers to be open to negotiating a small amount for your initial transition/move – e.g. initial plane ticket
  • Finally, there is an opportunity for some potential perks such as housing allowance, drivers and health insurance packages.

It’s also important to find out upfront if there are decent compensation options available however no one should expect significant increases in salary.

What is a good way to face the cultural shock?

The clue is in the name, ultimately it’s a shock – like a pothole in the road you can’t magic it away… Your objective is to dampen that sock in any shape or form. In engineering we do that through increasing the time over which a force acts -the shock absorber! Here are 5 points to keep in mind:

  • Don’t have extreme expectations – be level headed… and expect ups and downs as the norm.
  • Build your own support network before you go with people who have similar backgrounds and aspirations.
  • Use resources such as MoveMeBack to find opportunities that are well suited to you and learn from the realistic experiences of others.
  • Maximise for stability, sustainability and happiness first – you can almost always find something for you if you prepare – this will see you through toughest of days
  • Be very clear on your ‘why’ – you need to know what it’s all in aid of and what your end goal is. This is necessary to keep you going when things are wavering.

Come to SheHive London to hear Charles speak about moving back and answer all your questions! Buy your pass here now.

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