AMADOU DAFFE is the CEO/co-founder of Gebeya Inc, a Pan-African source for freelance professional talent that connects Startups and Small and Medium Enterprises to professional talents from across the continent. In this interview with MODESTUS ANAESORONYE, he shares his vision on how the platform offers a self-service single gateway for clients to create a profile and gain instant access to pre-vetted, qualified talents offering professional services and ready to work.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My three passions are tech, talent and Africa. I sought to combine the three after travelling and networking around the continent. I have a background in software engineering and initially founded Coders4Africa to build the continent’s largest software outsourcing company. I quickly recognized that the opportunity for this continent’s professionals to prove globally competitive was more expansive than software developers alone.
What inspired the founding of Gebeya Inc?
Gebeya was established to address what we recognized as massive untapped potential in Africa’s workforce. We met a plethora of qualified professionals with the right mindset, attitude and integrity, but who couldn’t find opportunities. On the other side of the coin, we met entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs whose biggest pain point was finding the right talent. Despite the fact that the total addressable size of the freelance marketplace is estimated at $1.5 trillion globally, there was no trusted platform to meet this need, focused on Africa specifically.
What challenge did you notice with job hiring in Africa that you think this platform will address?
The hiring process is arduous. There are plenty of sites out there to post jobs, but the burden is on the individual hiring is heavy. Right away, they will be hit with dozens or even hundreds of applications. Then, they have to do the work of sorting through CVs one-by-one, schedule interviews, check references, negotiate pay rate . . . this is time-consuming, inefficient and risky. We mitigate that risk: we follow a rigorous and targeted process of intake by screening, testing and interviewing talent applicants who wish to join our marketplace. Only about 30 percent of those who apply are successfully onboarded. So, those who come to our marketplace seeking to hire talent are choosing from that curated pool of 30 percent. We recognize that Africa does not have a talent shortage, rather a matching problem.
Having operated for a while now, what is the major challenge in matching skills with jobs in Africa?
We have observed a misunderstanding of and disconnect about capacity needs in Africa. For example, there is a large demand for full-time, on-site IT Officers; this role is essentially technical support. But this type of work can be performed remotely, and is better budgeted for as an on-demand service used on an as-needed basis, and billed hourly. We have provided clients executive-level talent following a similar model. Many organizations, especially start-ups that have not fundraised, do not realize that a part-time, on-demand arrangement is possible with a Chief Technology Officer. They simply assume they cannot afford a full-time CTO, thus do without one entirely.
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Do you think the continent’s education system is sound enough to serve the growing job market? If not, what are your recommendations?
I’ll address this in a different way, it’s clear that there is a practical experience gap for those graduating from African institutions and transitioning into the job market. In order to better prepare graduates to solve practical African and global problems, they need to be equipped with real-world experience, not theory alone.
There are so many job seekers out there who will like to be enlisted on your platform. What is the procedure and how can they be enrolled in?
The process for job seekers to join the Gebeya Talent Marketplace is easy. They can download the Gebeya Talent app on Android or iOS, fill out their profile, and attach a CV. They’ll then be tested on their skill sets, then interviewed by a subject matter expert, also in their field. Those who successfully pass through these stages will be eligible to match with projects from customers ready to hire talent.
In the period you have operated, how many job seekers have you been able to place in employment?
Hundreds! As we are a growing platform, our plans include rapid upscaling. Those who join the marketplace can benefit from features such as being part of a Pan-African community of freelance talents with whom they can network and learn from; gaining exposure to global work opportunities; and upskilling on new and emerging technologies.
Who pays for services in Gebeya Inc?
Clients who hire via the platform pay a small fee for services. This includes individuals, start-ups, and SMEs who are saving cost, time and risk in their recruitment, hiring, and project execution procedures. The platform is completely free for talents.
Start-ups and SMEs appear as your focus, why?
Start-ups typically fundraise when they need to grow their team, build a product or expand into a new market. Once they have raised capital, they need human capital. They have investors to answer to and no time to waste. Maxime Bayen tracks the fundraising activity of start-ups in Africa. In July, he shared that, 7 months into 2021, African start-ups have already raised more money this year than in the entirety of 2019—71 deals at a total value of $308 million just in July; $1.5 billion thus far for the year. This is where we see the most urgent and exponential need for a reliable resource of qualified hires on the continent.
Where do you plan to be in the next five years in terms of people you have positioned for employment?
We plan to onboard 15,000 freelance talents within the next three years, and have 5,000 talents actively working on projects in any given year. The high percentage of unemployment on the African continent is cited often—30 percent or more in populous countries like Nigeria and South Africa. But Africa has both an abundance of talented professionals and work opportunities. We know this from our own market research. Thus, we launched a fully automated process that immediately connects those looking to hire with the talent they need.
In order to better prepare graduates to solve practical African and global problems, they need to be equipped with real-world experience, not theory alone.