Talent Solutions

4th April 24

Analysis: East African talent within agriculture - 2024

By Wandia Musyimi, Senior Executive Recruitment Consultant

Top commercial talent in the fresh produce industry in East Africa

From a sample of ∼70 fresh produce companies, > 100 online profiles, we are pleased to present the following insights from the past 1 year (2023 – 2024):

  • As is typically expected, commercial talent is high in demand. Commercial functions serve an important purpose in fresh produce businesses because they are the point of connection between the business and its customers.
  • The gender split between female and male online profiles serving in commercial functions and roles could be improved. As companies look to hire within their commercial functions, it may be a nice addition to employ initiatives to diversify the pool of applicants.  
  • A median 3.3 years within a commercial role is relatively low within in terms of retention rates. Employing retention strategies may be essential for fresh produce firms in East Africa.

Relevant Skills Sets for Commercial Talent in East Africa

In East Africa’s commercial talent pool, certain skills are increasingly prioritised. There is also no remarkable growth in terms of newly sought after skillsets in the past year. Some of the standout skills are expounded on below.

  • At the forefront is a strong foundation in horticulture, reflecting the region’s reliance on agriculture and the growing demand for high-quality fresh produce. That coupled with this is a deep understanding of agriculture, encompassing both traditional practices and innovative techniques to enhance productivity and sustainability.
  • Sales management skills are also highly valued, as professionals adept in driving sales strategies and managing client relationships play a pivotal role in ensuring market success.
  • Operations expertise is crucial for streamlining processes and optimising efficiency throughout the value chain.
  • Customer relationship management capabilities are vital for nurturing long-term partnerships and customer satisfaction.
  • New business development skills are instrumental in identifying and capitalising on emerging opportunities.
  • Lastly, strategic marketing proficiency is crucial for crafting compelling campaigns and positioning products effectively in the marketplace. In summary, a multidimensional skill set encompassing technical know-how, strategic thinking, and interpersonal abilities is increasingly becoming the hallmark of successful commercial talent in East Africa’s dynamic agribusiness landscape.

Common Job Titles for Commercial Talent in East Africa

In the past year, the most prevalent roles were mid to senior level ones. The role of Business Development Manager emerges as the most prevalent reflecting the region’s emphasis on growth and expansion. These professionals are tasked with identifying new opportunities, forging strategic partnerships, and driving revenue generation initiatives. Following closely is the role of Commercial Manager, who oversees the execution of business strategies and ensures alignment with organisational objectives. Commercial Leads play a pivotal role in coordinating commercial activities and fostering collaboration across teams.

Inbound and Outbound Commercial Talent in East Africa

The below data covers inbound and outbound talent from 4 East African countries – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia and some insight into the moves in and out from the top 5 countries where talent was moving.


In the past year, Kenya’s fresh produce industry lost talent to the United States, Singapore, the UK, Tanzania and the UAE at a higher rate than in it gained talent from these markets.

The reason behind this could be varied, including a tougher economic climate locally. It comes as no surprise that Kenya lost talent to the US as this is a common destination for outbound talent from Kenya.


In the past year, Uganda’s fresh produce industry gained more talent at a higher rate than in it lost talent from to India, the US, the UK, Kenya and Nigeria. 

Uganda, with its large and vast farms attracts operational and farm management talent from across the world, especially India, where the sugar industry is large, complex and saturated with highly qualified candidates.


In the past year, Tanzania’s fresh produce industry gained and lost talent at an almost even rate to India, Kenya, Poland, Egypt and South Africa. 

Tanzania’s data is unique because it consists of the most intra-African movement. Given the movement from highly industrialised markets such as Poland, Egypt and South Africa, the influx and outflow from Tanzania probably related to factory or corporate agri roles.

In the past year, Ethiopia’s fresh produce industry lost talent at a higher rate than it gained it to the UAE, Kenya, the US, Sudan and China.
Ethiopia losing talent mainly to the UAE, Kenya and the US, which are considered industrialised or industrialising markets. They also gained talent from countries such as Sudan and China where technically skilled labour may come from and contribute to the improved processing of fresh produce from Ethiopia.

Our Recommendations

When hiring fresh produce companies in East Africa, it’s crucial to prioritise candidates with a strong grasp of horticulture and agriculture, given the sectors’ significance to the region’s economy. Roles such as Business Development Manager and Commercial Manager require individuals who have successfully identified and seized market opportunities. Leadership skills are vital for positions like Commercial Lead, Head of Commercial, and Commercial Director, as these roles involve guiding teams and driving strategic initiatives.

Additionally, expertise in supply chain management is essential for roles such as Sourcing Manager and Head of Commercial Operations, ensuring a smooth flow of produce from farm to market. Marketing proficiency is indispensable for roles like Marketing Business Development Manager and Sales Business Development Manager, enabling effective product positioning and consumer engagement. Candidates for regional roles like Regional Business Development Manager and Regional Commercial Manager should possess a nuanced understanding of local dynamics and consumer preferences.

Overall, fresh produce companies should seek candidates with a diverse skill set, including technical expertise, strategic thinking, leadership abilities, and a deep understanding of the East African agribusiness sector.

Reach Out to Us
We’re also here to support your own journey to success. Whether you’re seeking top-tier talent to drive your business forward or require expert HR services tailored to the unique needs of the sector, our team is here to help.

How Can We Assist You?

1. Recruitment Services: Looking to expand your team with the best and brightest minds in fresh produce? Our extensive network and industry expertise enable us to connect you with top-tier talent that aligns perfectly with your business objectives.
2. HR Solutions: From talent acquisition to performance management, we understand the intricacies of HR within the agricultural sector. Let us handle the complexities so you can focus on what you do best: growing your business.

Whether you’re a large-scale farm, a budding SME, or a seasoned entrepreneur, we’re committed to helping you thrive in the dynamic world of fresh produce. Reach out to us today to discuss your recruitment and HR needs, and let’s embark on this journey together.

📩 Contact Us Now!
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Talent Solutions team for personalised assistance tailored to your specific requirements via recruitment@agrifrontier.com or directly to Wandia Musyimi at wmusyimi@agrifrontier.com or Sylvia Mugo at smugo@agrifrontier.com

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