Not that there’s anything wrong with speaking Afrikaans‚ enjoying rugby or having pride in your home city‚ but this naturally leads to black professionals who have moved to Cape Town having a profound sense of alienation‚ particularly if they are also deprived of networking opportunities to meet kindred spirits who share their interests or speak their language.
Tinyiko’s challenge with diversity of languages is‚ however‚ not something that can be rectified in the short-term. South Africa’s 11 official languages are widely dispersed across the country because of historical migratory patterns. Cape Town’s demographic structure is unique‚ given our geographic location at the tip of Africa‚ and it is somewhat unfair to expect this city to display the same diversity of languages and cultures experienced in Johannesburg.
It is also similarly unfair to expect companies to match a national demographic target with respect to staff complement in Cape Town offices. The desire to do just that has led to an unfortunate situation in which Cape-based companies spend a fortune “importing” African black talent‚ while local coloured talent remains largely unemployed.
Cape Town has a coloured population that makes up 50% of this city‚ and perhaps our attempts to drive greater transformation need to start by making local citizens feel included before we rush to import higher numbers of employees to meet national targets.
It’s important to note‚ however‚ that not all challenges experienced by young talent in this region relate to racial or cultural issues. Many large corporates have their headquarters in Johannesburg with a regional office in Cape Town. This means that for many professionals in a specific stream‚ a move to HQ is inevitable if they hope for significant career growth in their chosen field of expertise‚ as a regional office simply cannot accommodate their desired career progression.
Generational issues have also started emerging‚ with millennials often holding unrealistic expectations with respect to the pace of their career progression. When these expectations are not met due to a general economic slowdown‚ it is easy to assume it’s because of racial discrimination.
Lack of transformation – whether to be inclusive of either black or coloured talent – is nevertheless a serious problem in Cape Town. Companies need to take seriously‚ and deal decisively‚ with both perceived and actual racial discrimination. We need to start implementing programmes within the workplace that drive far higher levels of cultural intelligence across all levels of the organisation‚ and particularly within the human resources and recruitment functions.
We need to also start taking a much closer look at recruitment practice and the unconscious cultural bias often evident in the behaviours of recruiters. Recent research has revealed that the most important factor determining employment of graduates in Cape Town is the depth and extent of their social network. If black professionals are not afforded an opportunity to build social capital‚ they will continue to be massively disadvantaged in this region.
Most importantly‚ we need to continue the conversation and create the spaces to engage around this issue in an honest and robust manner.
- Ravens is CEO of Accelerate Cape Town‚ a business leadership organisation representing top-tier corporate business in Cape Town. It provides a forum for corporates to connect and catalyse action to position Cape Town for growing economic success as a globally recognised business destination in Africa.