Despite an impressive growth performance across the continent, unemployment continues to be a major socio-economic challenge in many African countries. And for a continent with a largely youthful population, this simply means high levels of unemployment and vulnerable employment for the youth. Therefore, governments and private organizations are awakening to the need for job creation, the quality of jobs and also the need to simplify job recruitment processes. One of such organizations championing a way to ease job recruitment processes across Africa is Platform.
Platform is a unique online destination for projects, services and employment opportunities across Africa. It serves as a gateway for both job advertisers and job seekers; connecting qualified blue-collar and white-collar professionals with employers. According to James Balogun, one of Platform’s ambassadors, the site was created as a means to tackle unemployment in Africa. “Non-African countries have been able to manage their unemployment issues but that is not the case in Africa where the private sector and entrepreneurs are doing more in terms of job creation than the government. We wanted to create opportunities for Nigerians and Africans, and Platform is our way of doing that,” he told Ventures Africa.
Although the idea of Platform seems traditional, it is far from that. Platform is a novel solution to job recruitment processes across Africa. Applying to job recruitment agencies can be a hassle, with a long waiting process and hundreds of thousands of competition for the applicants coupled with a lengthy screening process for the agencies themselves. But these issues do not exist with Platform where job advertisers or employers connect directly with job seekers. Simply put, Platform is a ‘job match-making’ site. “We don’t get involved in the screening process. We don’t get in-between potential employees and employers. Our strategy and objectives are very simple, we position ourselves as a gateway platform. Applicants are able to engage directly with job advertisers,” Balogun said.
How does it work?
Firms register on Platform and post a job opening; a registered applicant whose resume fits the job description gets an email notification. The applicant reaches out to the firms and a conversation ensues. For example, if a firm wants to hire a Personal Assistant (PA), all they have to do is register and put up a request or advertisement. In registering, they will have to prove that their company is legit by providing relevant documents. To prevent false advertisement, Platform runs a proper screening and background check on people and companies, and only approves an account for them if their legitimacy is verified. The firm can then post the job ad, including their contact details, while ‘the PA’ gets a notification email because he or she has gone through the same registration process and indicated his or her job interest. A maximum of five PA’s will receive the same notification; it is the firm’s decision to pick their preferred candidate. The same process applies to professionals in the blue-collar sector, artisans, handymen and repairmen.
There are also no charges involved, and less competition as with traditional recruitment agencies. With Platform, parties only pay to register, and job seekers only have to compete with five people. Therefore, chances of getting employed are higher because applicants are competing with fewer people.
“We understand that the issue of unemployment across the region is deeper than it appears on the surface. Stakeholders argue that a sole focus on the unemployment level without a real solution can also be a distraction; the quality of jobs is often just as important. Economic strategies to minimize these risks remain a priority across Africa, and this is where we come in.” – Platform.
Originally, Platform was intended to serve the United Kingdom and a European audience. But that changed when Balogun realized the level of unemployment and what he describes as a “similar struggle for work” across Africa. “Travelling across Africa, one thing that fascinated me was the familiarity in the struggle. People want to work; they just need jobs. I have been in business long enough to know that if you give a man £50 and push him toward a venture, he can sustain himself and his family. This made me question why I was doing it in Europe. Africa needs it more,” he said. Platform was established after a series of researches and surveys were carried out in Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Ghana. Hence, it was tailored to suit the needs of the African population.
However, setting up Platform was not entirely an easy process; it was one riddled with unnecessary bureaucracy. “There were challenges from day one. It takes less than an hour to register companies overseas but in Nigeria, there are one too many steps and regulations. It was very frustrating,” Balogun lamented. “Dealing with the banks also proved extremely difficult. There was a lot of travelling back and forth because you can’t do most of these things online or over the phone. You have to be on ground.” Sadly, these issues, amongst several others, are why Nigeria ranks abysmally at 169 out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index.
On how the venture makes money, Balogun explained that it is via registrations and also through a bidding process. “Initially we wanted to make this a free venture, but we realized that if we really wanted to regulate the process and set a standard to attract the right calibre of applicants, there needed to be a fee,” he said. At $8 (N2900) per registration, and $1.58 (N575) for jobs and project leads ads, the fee is nothing compared to what other recruitment firms charge even without a guarantee of connecting applicants with potential employers and vice versa. Clearly, Platform offers much more for less; once registered, parties are highly likely to get what they want because they are able to engage directly with each other. “We also generate money from a bidding process; when a job is advertised, multiple persons may apply so we limit the access to five applicants. Each applicant pays a fixed rate. We also charge employers who contact us to help them recruit a candidate if they cant do it themselves.”
Currently, Platform is available across all 54 African countries, tackling unemployment by simplifying the process of recruitment and making quality jobs easily available to those who need them.