Akilah Net Launches to Help End Unemployment in East Africa


10434070_1569171903301175_3393999637411178038_nRonald Bwire, a 25 year-old Kenyan graduated three years ago with a bachelors degree in Human Resources from Islamic University in Uganda. With a degree, he had huge hopes of changing the world.

He knew, he would be in a job in a few months and would have his own house and family like his mother had always wished.

But things haven’t been as rosy.

Bwire’s normal mornings comprise of interviews and tests from employers and he is getting tired of what has become of his daily routine. He spents the afternoon browsing job boards for open vacancies in organizations, checking his emails and sending CV’s thinking he might secure one of the jobs advertised.

Like him, thousands of youths in East Africa are unemployed despite the fact that opportunities abound. Firms in the region also decry the lack of talent.

However, Akilah Net,a new initiative by Akilah Institute says the problem remains unsolved.

Speaking to TechMoran, Anastasia Uglova VP Akilah Net said, ” Akilah Net is the new online resource for young professionals in East Africa. Think of Akilah Net as an online career coach, providing job seekers in the region with industry news and actionable advice on how to market their skills, prepare for interviews, and land the job offer. ”

According to Uglova, Akilah Net would be a resource for people like Bwire to get news and info on what to do and not to do to land jobs of their dreams.

Set to launch a job board soon Uglova says the idea developed from their experience in building the Akilah Institute, a college that prepares young women for careers in technology, business, and hospitality management.

“Over the past 7 years, the Akilah Institute has struggled to find an efficient way to recruit and hire local staff and faculty,” Uglova says. “We still spend way too much money on posting advertisements in the newspaper and then reviewing thousands of CVs. As a quickly growing organization, we need a tool that helps us to recruit professionals who are a good technical and cultural fit for Akilah Institute. As we thought about building an ideal tool for our organization, we realized it would be even better to offer this product to all organizations facing similar hiring challenges.”

Uglova also says they’ve learned a lot from the experiences of their alumnae who are launching their careers in East Africa. It’s a very difficult and time-consuming process for them to find current opportunities that are aligned with their skills and interests. They have to comb through many disconnected websites and newspapers, and largely rely on word of mouth to find jobs.

Ironiccally, Uglova says they continue to hear so many complaints from managers and entrepreneurs about how challenging it is for them to find qualified professionals. There are many jobs available, and there are many qualified candidates, but they’re having trouble finding each other!

“We want to offer a platform that makes it easier for job seekers and hiring managers to connect through a more efficient job search and hiring process. Job seekers can find great opportunities that are aligned with their skills and interests and then apply directly through Akilah Net. Employers in turn can easily filter and assess candidates through the platform,” she says.

mouth-shut-businessman-850x400Currently funded by angel investors, Akilah Net’s first phase of development is proving that there is an appetite on the market for this type of service and information. Akilah Net is also raising additional funds to build out the next phase of technology-a platform to match job seekers and employers based on skills and interests. Akilah Net’s goal is to assist businesses to attract top talent.

Akilah Net currently lists jobs under its weekly feature called Jobs We Love, a curated listing of the best and most interesting job openings it finds in the region. The section Don’t Miss This! features calls for fellowships, scholarships, prizes, grants, and other unique opportunities for career advancement that are not strictly-speaking job openings. Plus, Akilah Net saysit has fresh, actionable content that readers can put to use to advance their careers. For example, its articles and interviews always include the “key takeaways” so readers don’t just read the news but know what to do with it.

“We have a strict policy that we don’t just report what’s happening unless we can explain exactly how this is useful to an upwardly mobile young professional and provide actionable next steps,” says Uglova. “This summer we are launching a fully-featured job board that makes it possible for job seekers to find opportunities based on their skills and interests.”

Akilah Net says its company profiles will enable job seekers to learn more about the company mission and culture before applying to the job — directly on Akilah Net.

Uglova says the community is doing enough to address unemployment in East Africa. She says there’s such a vibrant community of startup accelerators, co-working spaces, and incubation hubs all over East Africa working doing a lot to promote entrepreneurial endeavor and transfer of best practices between companies.

But while the entrepreneurial ecosystem is strong, the private sector and larger companies could certainly do more to promote job skills training – for example, through increased internship opportunities – and support universities that are working overtime to educate young people but don’t have the resources for intensive workplace preparation.

She also thinks innovation is a key part of the puzzle to solving unemployment even though it’s no panacea.

“Structural unemployment has multiple causes, which require just as many solutions. Innovation is wonderful, especially when new ideas result in new jobs. But it can also be a force for “creative destruction”, where truly visionary, disruptive innovations cause entire industries to become obsolete and workers have to learn entirely new skills to find employment. We applaud the disruptors and the innovators, but we also have to manage the fallout from industrial progress,” she says.

The bigger bet for tackling unemployment here is addressing the mismatch between the skills workers have and the skills employers want. And that comes down to education and training. Usually, you have unemployment when the supply of labor is greater than the demand for labor – but that is absolutely not the case here. Uglova says they’re always hearing from employers that hiring is one of their biggest challenges, and yet so many are looking for work! There’s a classic market inefficiency at play here, and that’s what Akilah Net wants to address.

And it’s no other job board.

Akilah Net is different because it streamlines the entire job search an application process in one place, and provides a platform for companies and job seekers in the region to find each other. Applicants will be able to easily find jobs aligned with their skills in the region, find useful information about the companies and their culture to decide if it’s a good fit for them, and apply directly on the site. Akilah Net hopes to eliminate some of the stress and uncertainty in job search and hiring, for both job seekers and hiring managers.

Secondarily, there’s an important learning component that sets Akilah Net apart. The team is putting everything it knows about career and job placement at the Akilah Institute online for everyone to be able to benefit. It believes at it publishes more content, it can really become the outsourced online career office for universities. Administrators will be able to send their graduating seniors to the site to prepare for the job market. Akilah Net plans to have email-based courses with weekly assignments, online skills assessments, and CV-building tools to help applicants market themselves. It’s a full-service web-based solution for job preparation.

As a woman, Uglova says doing business in Kigali has been just fine.

“We are lucky to work in Rwanda, a country that has arguably done more than any other African country to advance women’s rights and empowerment, both politically and economically,” she says. “The challenges of setting up a technology business are the same anywhere in the world: women generally have to work harder to prove that they have the skills and expertise to be successful. When we speak to potential investors, they ask how we can balance startup life with family responsibilities, which is a question commonly directed at young women professionals but not men. So we have to work really hard to show them that it’s certainly possible!”

Akilah Net expects to make money by charging companies for a membership fee that allows them to post job opportunities and use the technology to review and filter applicants directly on the site.

Uglova says the Akilah Net team is motivated most by students at the Akilah Institute in Rwanda and Burundi. These young women come to Akilah with very varied experiences and academic backgrounds, but they are all incredibly passionate and motivated. In three years at the Institute, these young ladies undergo a phenomenal transformation, emerging as empowered, professional women ready to launch careers in some of East Africa’s fastest-growing industries. “We saw what our academic model could do for our students, and we knew the logical next step was to put as much of our knowledge and materials online as we could for anyone to access,” Uglova concludes.

Akilah Net will directly compete with One Africa Media’s BrighterMonday which recently launched in Rwanda.