Afrijob: The job-matching start-up battling the continent’s ‘brain-drain’ problem

Afrijob hires at the Nariobi offices of Swvl, an Egyptian ride-hailing start-up
Afrijob hires at the Nariobi offices of Swvl, an Egyptian ride-hailing start-up

Each year more than 80,000 African students flock to China for higher education, with many taking advantage of scholarship funding offered by Beijing. A good portion of these graduates decide to pursue careers in China or move on to seek futures in the West, fueling a ‘brain-drain’ effect, wherein the continent’s best and brightest acquire a range of new skills, only for their talents to be put to use far from their homelands.

It’s precisely this problem that Tre Hunt and Harriet Kariuki have set out to solve. The pair are no strangers to the sort of talent that emerges from the world’s top schools, having each earned bachelors’ degrees at Harvard University in the United States and completed Masters’ programs at China’s prestigious Peking University.

But when time came to seek out post-graduation opportunities, the pair was flummoxed by a system that seemed stacked against a return to the African continent that they both loved. To Hunt, it was clear there were gaps that needed filling.

Tre Hunt (left) and Harriet Kariuki (right) with one of the Afrijob hires they helped to place

“We realized that no matter whether you are studying at one of the best universities in China, or one of the best universities in the US; whether you are an African, or someone who’s just interested in the continent, there’s no real platform or avenue to connect very top students from great universities and top talent in general to the African continent.”

Kariuki agreed: “One of the questions we kept asking was, ‘Why are we having such a challenge coming back? Why are we having such a challenge maneuvering Africa, when we belong here?’ We realized there’s this missing link between global talent and African opportunities.”

The pair returned to Kenya and set to work on founding Afrijob — a talent-sourcing clearing house aimed at connecting highly skilled job-seekers with start-ups across the region.

Over time, the classmates-turned-business-partners amassed a database of over 1,500 qualified candidates, which they work to match with job positions at over two-dozen partner companies in Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia and beyond.

“The majority of the people that we have matched are actually Africans who have studied abroad.” Hunt explains. “Brain drain is one of the major issues we see Afrijob combatting.”

Bryan Osero is one such returning graduate the company has helped place. “I had spent so much time in the US, that coming back felt like basically starting over, with new networks, new contacts. But Afrijob made that easier.”

Bryan Osero sought Afrijob’s help with navigating Kenya’s labor market after returning from studies in the United States

The repatriated Kenyan now works as supply specialist for Swvl, an Egyptian transport start-up that has leaned heavily on Afrijob’s services to staff its Nairobi operations.

He’s one of many educated African emigres determined to bring his skills and talents back to the continent. Research from Jacana Partners, a pan-African private equity firm, estimates that nearly three in four African MBA graduates from top Western business schools aim to return home rather than pursue careers abroad.

Meanwhile, according to PwC’s 2019 Global CEOs Survey, almost half of African business executives say they are “extremely concerned” about the lack of key skills in local labor markets.

The result is a yawning skills gap that both employers and job-seekers are eager to close. And with online platforms like Afrijob stepping up to bridge the information divide, stakeholders have one more weapon in the continent’s ongoing battle against brain drain.

See Part I of our series here: Closing the ‘skills gap’: A Chinese scholarship’s impact in rural Kenya

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