Juakali, is a blue collar job directory and a meeting place for workers in the informal sector and construction companies, corporate empowers, home owners and later individuals.
Founded by Judith Owigar, a University of Nairobi Computer Science graduate, now pursuing an Msc in Computer Science at the same university and president at Akirachix, an initiative getting girls into tech, the platform is set to connect the unskilled workers in the informal sector and the service providers such as construction firms, security companies, individuals among others.
Owigar says the Juakali was inspired by her need to do to something for the society and also develop a technology solution using her skills, unlike at Akirachix where she only teaches.
“We used to go around hosting mobile garages to help girls get into tech but and I needed to practice what I preach so I founded Juakali.”
“I also believe that in ten years, Africa will have its own Facebook and Google. I wanted to be part of that revolution. I believe in the 10,000 hour rule and I believe Kenya is headed in the right direction. I will put in my efforts than wait for others people to do it, she added.
When she arrived at university, Owigar found herself alone in her computer science class and thought women were not allowed to take engineering courses, so she was moved to get more women in tech. She a teamed up with her friends to start Akirachix at iHub.
Though she agrees that most of the blue collar workers dont use internet so much, she agrees that they are educated and have diplomas from vocational institutions. She says the group has just been ignored by job sites and they cant find informal jobs on other sites out there.
Akirachix recently received $500,000 from SIDA and is also working with Intel and other firms to bring more women into tech. Away from the success she has had as Akirachix president, Owigar says JuaKali wont jump any queues but will grow step by step until it stands on their own. She also wants to do the startup to learn business skills to add to her programming skills.
The informal workers sign up on the platform for free, fill in their employee history for rating and reviews. The system runs on SMS and USSD as most of its target population are mostly offline and staying in informal settlements.
Juakali’s earlier version was a web-only platform but a few pilots made her to change mind to SMS to make it more practical. Employers however will have to pay to access the database of employees on Juakali, and that’s where she expects to get her cut too.
Her immediate goal now is to get more users on the site during the pilot, before the February launch. She says she will be working with vocational institutions, friends, and construction sites and then recruit firms to who want vetted employees. She also wants to focus on their satisfaction at the moment and though there are similar services in the market such as M-Pawa, M-Kazi, Fundi Mjanja among others she is not worried of the impact Juakali will make.
To be ready to run her for-profit businesses, Owigar went to Growthhub for free business training which she says has helped change her mind and see entrepreneurship the way it is. In two years, she is sure Juakali will be the standard for the informal sector and vet who employers can be trusted. Without a Juakali certification a blue collar workers would find it hard to get work. Juakali’s uniqueness is its focus on employee reputation.
Owigar is against the get-rich quick developers who are into tech for personal gains and she promises not to give up even when the going gets tough. Her advice to founders is they need to be careful, take time before looking for co-founders and get business skills than just the money, she hopes one day we will have entrepreneur support groups in Africa to help advise entrepreneurs.