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Ever fancied living in Africa?

ONS is advertising three positions in Africa, this sounds like a once in a lifetime opportunity – can you tell us more?

This is a unique chance for Grade 7 staff to undertake a fascinating new challenge supporting the transformation of statistical systems in countries at the forefront of statistical modernisation in Africa.

You’d be based in one of the national statistical institutes that ONS is developing strategic partnerships with – so that’s the National Institute of Statistics Rwanda (NISR) in Kigali, Rwanda; the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in Nairobi, Kenya; and the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) in Accra, Ghana.

We’re offering up to three positions – one in each of the partner organisations. They will be ONS positions, funded through a strategic partnership between ONS and DFID.

What would I be doing?

Your primary objective would be to build capability in your partner organisation by providing strategic and technical advice and practical assistance to the senior leadership team while they modernise their national statistical system. Depending on your area of expertise, you would be delivering some elements of technical assistance yourself – and working with the International Development Team to bring in other business areas of ONS to provide complementary assistance to deliver the project’s wider objectives.

What will the challenges be?

These posts will be challenging: I have worked in Africa regularly over the last 15 years, and one of the main challenges is adapting to a different way of planning your work and communications, and being resilient to changes outside of your control.

You’ll need solid experience and expertise in a relevant field of statistical modernization (for example data science, data quality assurance, legal reform, economic statistics, transforming data collection) and a broad understanding of official statistics production and management, and in the UK, but you will need to learn to adapt what you understand as good practice to suit very different circumstances with fewer resources, fewer staff, and reduced statistical and physical infrastructure. This can really help build your ‘big picture’ skills, as you are required to focus on the fundamentals.

You will also need strong stakeholder management skills – you’ll need to work with a wide range of partners, ranging from technical people to senior officials and ministers, to establish your own and ONS’ credibility, you will need to seize opportunities where ONS can add value, provide useful advice, and bring in others at the right times, and resist trying to do everything!

What support would I get while I’m there?

You’ll work for ONS, and I would be your line manager (as head of ONS my  International Development Team), but you would also get support from the Embassies and Department for International Development (DFID) offices in the relevant countries.

Packages of accommodation, travel and allowances – including support for your spouse and children, like international schooling for example – will be provided in line with Foreign and Commonwealth Office standards.

Myself and my team, based in ONS Newport will also help to ensure strong connections between the four post holders and identify opportunities for mutual lesson learning.

Can I really move to Africa? What about my family?

Having lived in Tanzania for 3 years myself with my young family, my view is that it can be a wonderful experience for you and your family. Schooling at international schools will be provided, as will healthcare. There are opportunities to learn new languages, try new foods, sports and activities, and of course to meet and engage with people from a wide range of cultures, including those from the partner country, and other internationals.

Travel around the region is one of the real opportunities, and the four locations themselves are all really great, family friendly places. Nairobi is a big city with a wide range of activities and entertainments, while Kigali and Accra are much smaller and more laid back. All three countries are warm and welcoming with fascinating cultures. Kenya has amazing safaris and beaches, Rwanda has beautiful scenery and gorillas, and Accra is on the beach. There truly is something for everyone!

How long are the positions for?

We’ve agreed funding for two years and there’s the possibility of the roles being extended if circumstances allow. The successful candidates will initially join the International Development team in ONS while their move is being finalised, then will be based fully in their country as soon as we can arrange the necessary permits.

What other opportunities are there to work in developing countries within the GSS?

DFID also have overseas statistical positions, there is one in Burma and one in Tanzania advertised on civil service jobs currently, and there may be more coming soon. These positions are working with the DFID country offices, to ensure that data is used effectively by the UK government to monitor and deliver their aid programmes. They have some similarities in terms of the life style and competencies needed, but the day to day work is quite different.

How can I find out more?

  • The positions are advertised through civil service jobs, with a deadline of 10 June 2018.
  • I have created an FAQs document, providing some answers to likely questions here in this google doc, please feel free to leave further questions in comments if you have any.
  • Or please get in touch with myself directly or via international.development@ons.gov.uk.
  • We can provide the ‘post reports’ giving practical information on what it is like to live at any of the three locations on request.
Emily Poskett