Who is Managing Haiti?

  • Posted by Marina Vatav
  • October 15, 2012 4:44 PM EDT

As Haiti is rebuilding and gaining more interest from the non-profit community, but also from the private national and international companies, the country is facing one if its realities: brain drain.

Unemployment rate is estimated to be 40% (2010, CIA), however, finding highly educated professionals may not be an easy task. It is particularly difficult to find mid-level managers.

Reynald Lally has operated his shipping company Concorde Haiti for 20 years. He says that finding qualified people to fill his managerial positions has been one of his main challenges for years. 

"I think one of the main problems in Haiti is that there has been a massive brain drain of mid-level management for the last 20 years. Even finding a good secretary is a problem," says Reynald.

Greg Figaro, Co-owner of the construction company ARCOTEC, says that his company has the same issue.

"There is a serious lack of availability in Haiti in general of mid-level managers. Because of that it's much harder to get decisions implemented than it would be if you had a chain of qualified mid-level managers. You will see for most companies in Haiti that the owners tend to be very involved in every step of every project. That's a direct consequence of not being able to get qualified mid-level managers. You either have the CEO at the top or average workers at the bottom and almost nothing in the middle," says Greg.

These two companies are not the only ones affected. We took a look at the Haiti job websites. They abound with announcements posting management positions. International non-profit organizations, local and foreign companies, big or small, are looking for General Directors, Production Managers, Human Resources Managers, Logistics Managers, Project Managers, etc. Main job requirements include at least 3-5 years of experience, Bachelors or Masters degree, Technology competency, and knowledge of English, French and Creole.

Jobpaw, a website that lists jobs and resumes, has analyzed their data and created a graph (attached) of the six most wanted professions on their website.

The graph shows that 51% of the almost 3,000 job listings received on Jobpaw between 2008 and 2011 have announced available positions for managers, finance, accounting, and commerce professionals.

Reasons and Solutions

Dr. Tatiana Wah, author of Haiti's Development Through Expatriate Reconnection: Conditions and Challenges and director of Haiti Research and Policy Program at Earth Institute, Columbia University, explains that one of the main reasons for the lack of mid-level managers is the lack of management education within the larger education problem in Haiti, geared to real and potential market demand.

"We lack management education in Haiti. You only have the state school, but those graduates usually strive for high-level management positions versus mid-level ones, and often in the public sector. We really need to deal with education, period. There has to also be an effort by the government and industry leaders to have training programs for specific industry needs," says Dr. Wah.

The other reason Dr. Wah noted for the shortage of mid-level managers is that most companies in Haiti are family-owned and only hire family members or acquaintances for management positions, which leads to less opportunities for those who would want to become managers. That is, demand for mid-level managers have been historically low - either filled by family members or international consultants.

The third reason is the brain drain. Besides the fact that a large number of educated Haitians have left and continue to leave the country, Dr. Wah points out that the brain drain is also caused by internal factors. 

"The mid-level managers are going towards the NGOs that have been for the longest time the main industry in the country, in a particular way, offering better salaries and benefits as well as social status and mobility. Somehow you have to get back those professionals. They could have been government administrators, teachers or principals of schools, but have gone the other way because they had no opportunity."

The solution resides in focusing on education for growth and development

"Effective education system and the opportunities for social mobility, with the associated financial rewards and benefits have to exist; the salary level and mobility opportunities will have to be attractive, the whole system has to be rethought, starting with education," says Dr. Wah. "The Ministry of Commerce and Industry and its Center for the Facilitation of Investments (CFI) as authoritative agencies should be focusing on these kinds of management training programs first and foremost because it is a real problem".