The making of Leaders in Africa

70% of the Millennials in Africa expect to achieve a role in the C-suite during their working life. How can today's leaders leverage the Gen Y's ambitions and sustain them over the long-term?
Abidjan, March, 21st 2016 – On the occasion of the 2016 edition of the Africa CEO Forum, Mazars, the integrated and independent international organisation specialising in audit and advisory services, and Morgan Philips Executive Search, reveal what has forged the success of African leaders today, and how Millennials will challenge the leadership model as they take the reins.

In the high-growth, unpredictable African business environment, today’s CEOs put a twist on the classic principles of leadership needed to succeed:  

 1)    Resourcefulness: Whereas creative problem-solving in developed countries is called “innovation,” on the continent, the same ability to find creative solutions in a frugal environment is “resourcefulness.” 

 2)    Team-Builder: The myth of the providential man – the leader of the tribe or the shaman – belongs to the past and to caricature. Modern CEOs in Africa are very much committed to succeed as a team. 

 3)    Ego under Control:Ego is part of the CEO’s job, reinforced by the culture of hierarchy. Yet, too much ego is seen as the number one cause of failure for top executive leaders in Africa. The art of leading in Africa comes in balancing humility with the audaciousness to challenge “business as usual.”

For Marion Navarre,  Deputy Managing Director at Morgan Philips Africa & Middle East and author of this study: Whether expats, locals or « repats », these characteristics are critical to their success as leaders. Moreover, the capacity of companies to recognise these skills in potential candidates and develop them in their staff, creates a real competitive advantage. "

 African Millennials want to contribute to the dynamic growth of the Continent, but they have different drivers than the current generation of leaders/CEOs, which means companies need to rethink strategies to engage them.

 Whereas today's leaders attribute success to their personality and experience (54% of our respondents), the Gen Y believes it is learned.

 For us, the current leaders, success was defined as working hard and achieving results. But today the pace of change is break-neck, and the Gen Y has understood this: success tomorrow depends on one’s ability to learn, learn fast, and reinvent oneself constantly,” says Abdou Diop, Executive Partner of Mazars in Morocco.

 The making of CEOs in Africa: The key factors to their success

 Another noteworthy finding revealed through this study is that nearly 70% of the Gen Y expect to achieve a role in the C-suite during their working life, while less than 10% wish to leave the Continent permanently. They are ambitious, enthusiastic to forge their careers in Africa and want to progress fast. As part of the generation of mobile phones and social media, they are also eager to leverage their digital acumen to re-invent the workplace. 

 In sum, the research shows the Gen Y is optimistic not only about the African outlook, but also about the prominent role they expect to play in leading business on the Continent. The risk is that there remains a skills gap, particularly regarding those needed to shift from a solid manager to a performing leader. 

 “Forget the brain drain,” says Tyra Malzy, Chief Learning Officer of Mazars and author of this study: “African Millennials want to stay on the Continent to contribute, grow, and above all, learn. The risk is that in their ambition and enthusiasm, they may miss their mark. The opportunity for today’s business leaders is to channel their energies and intelligently support their skills development, so that Millennials leverage the gains of their predecessors and continue the Continent’s leapfrog tradition.” 


This study conducted by Mazars and Morgan Philips, unveiled during the 2016 Edition of the Africa CEO Forum, draws on new research to identify both the key drivers of success for current African executives and how these will evolve as Millennials take the lead. The study was carried out between January and March 2016. 50 CEOs (mainly financial services, agriculture, energy & natural resources sectors of activity are represented) were interviewed by phone or face to face and 760 Millennials (aged between 20 and 35 years old) were approached via social networks or as part of Mazars’ and Citigroup’s Gen Y staff. 36 countries constitute the focus group, 59% male and 41% female.  

 About Mazars  

Mazars is an international, integrated and independent organisation, specialising in audit, accountancy, tax, legal and advisory services. As of 1st January 2016, Mazars operates throughout the 77 countries that make up its integrated partnership. We draw on the expertise of 17,000 professionals to assist major international groups, SMEs, private investors and public bodies at every stage of their development. 

In Africa, Mazars operates in 26 countries, 44 offices and draws on the expertise of 2,500 professionals. - -

About Morgan Philips

Morgan Philips Executive Search is a direct approach search firm specializing in the recruitment of executives and experts. Our expertise in executive recruitment runs throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America and Asia in several specialties. To find more about our services and offices, please visit

 About the Africa CEO Forum

The AFRICA CEO FORUM is one of the most important events in the African business calendar, bringing together the most influential figureheads in African and global finance and the CEOs of the continent’s biggest companies. It allows participants to exchange their views and opinions on the issues affecting the economic development of African companies, in a high-quality setting that is ideal for conducting business meetings.


Mazars Group Communications

Marie Coudié - +33 1 49 97 46 70 -

Mazars in Africa

Saloua Mansouri - +212 522 423 499 -

Ketchum Agency

Laurène Wale – +33 1 53 32 56 30 –