The Future of Work is Matching

March 2, 2023

How do we tie interventions - whether traditional education or boot camps or training programs - to job outcomes? As we'll explore in this episode, it requires a demand-led approach and starts with employers. 

In this episode, we're going to focus on the platforms doing the matching - those that are explicitly working to better connect supply and demand in the job marketplace, to achieve the employment outcomes we wish to see across the continent. 

4:03 - We start our exploration on matching with the traditional jobs marketplaces, with The African Talent Company's Hilda Kragha.
6:26 - What kinds of roles are most in demand across the African content?
8:15 - Taking a demand-led approach, with Generation's Dr. Mona Mourshed.
14:05 - How do we get more employers to consider evolving their hiring practices, in the context of such an inefficient labor market?
17:34 - A retrospective conversation with The Flip's b-mic Sayo Folawiyo, and its Founder, Justin Norman.

This episode features:

New episodes straight to your inbox.

Get them as soon as they're published.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Join thousands of subscribers.


Jeremy Johnson: People look at it as like, oh if someone has the skills, they're automatically gonna get the best job possible in the world for them. And it's just not even remotely true. 
Justin Norman: That's Jeremy Johnson, the Co-founder and CEO of Andela, who we heard from in episode 3.
Jeremy Johnson: You could be an extraordinarily talented human who has the exact right skillset and if you don't have exposure to the right people, experience in the right environments people are really reluctant to hire.
Justin Norman: It brings to light this idea of job matching - of platforms like Andela playing a role not just in upskilling job seekers, but of physically connecting that supply to demand in the marketplace. We spoke about it last episode on global business services, as well, where organizations like Harambee are taking a demand-led approach to training, organizing, and connecting talent to opportunity.
Especially in an environment of increased remote work, this model, where intermediaries connect supply and demand, is a model we expect to see continue across the continent. 
How do we tie interventions - whether traditional education or boot camps or training programs - to job outcomes? As we'll explore in this episode, it starts with employers. 
So in today's episode, we're going to focus on the platforms explicitly working to better connect supply and demand in the job marketplace, to better achieve the employment outcomes we wish to see across the continent. 
Justin Norman: Before we start, we'd like to thank MFS Africa for their sponsorship of the entirety of Season 4 of The Flip. 
In this episode, we're going to talk about connecting supply and demand in the labor marketplace, and in an environment of informality and inefficiency. It's similar characteristics that led to the proliferation of offline agents in the fintech space, for example. Last year, MFS Africa acquired an agent network in Nigeria, called Baxi. And I spoke to Baxi's COO, Mxolisi Msutwana, about integrating the Baxi agent network to MFS Africa's broader payments hub. 
**Mxolisi Msutwana: **So Baxi is an agency business based in Nigeria. And Baxi is quite key in this respect that it bridges the gap so, for example, in allowing people to be able to perform services like deposits, transfers, cash withdrawals from their bank accounts through our agents. And what is quite interesting, in combining the power of MFS Africa and the strength of Baxi in Nigeria, is that it allows us to be able to offer services that traditionally were not available to Nigerian consumers specifically Baxi clients. And on the other hand, it allows MFS Africa to expand its business into Nigeria. The traditional expansion that we've had in MFS Africa is we've been connecting mobile money operators together. The Nigeria story is quite different in that agency banking and agent networks in Nigeria are very embedded in the financial services in that country. So if you want to make meaningful impact, which is what we want to do in connecting our cross-border services, Baxi is the natural choice. 
Justin Norman: Welcome back to The Flip, I'm your host Justin Norman. 
Something I find particularly interesting, in our tech discourse, is the degree to which technology is seen as a tool to cut out the middlemen - this idea of disintermediation being a good thing for users. But is that always the case? What value can and do intermediaries bring to the equation?
In the case of employment, there's an opportunity for these kinds of platforms to play a huge role in more meaningfully connecting job seekers to employers. To understand why requires us to dig a bit further into what hiring looks like today, what are the needs of employers, and what kinds of interventions have found success across the region. Let's start with more traditional job marketplaces. 
Hilda Kragha: My name is Hilda Kabushenga Kragha. I am the CEO of The African Talent Company.
Justin Norman: The African Talent Company is a spinout from the marketplaces company ROAM Africa, whose jobs marketplaces consists of Jobberman in Nigeria and Ghana, and Brighter Monday in Kenya and Uganda. But like so much else, the challenges and opportunities in these markets are a bit different. 
Hilda Kragha: If you think about job boards in the first world, they work pretty efficiently because the job seekers are qualified, they went to great schools, they have skills, they know to build their CVs. They can navigate a job platform pretty seamlessly and apply to jobs and get matched. And the employers on the other hand, they have trust in the education system, they know that good graduates are coming out. And they know that if they get into a platform they can get the kind of people they're looking for because they trust technology and they know how to use it.
Justin Norman: But these efficiencies exist to a much lesser degree if at all across the continent. 
Hilda Kragha: You quickly begin to realize a number of things that just don't hold true in Africa. One, the sheer number of job seekers outstrips the number of jobs, by far. And we've got our sister businesses in Eastern Europe and Western Europe, their struggle is applications. A job listing comes up and you're struggling to find ten candidates. We get a job listing up and it gets three thousand applications. And out of those three thousand, maybe only five are actually qualified. 
Justin Norman: So on one hand there are these massive supply and demand imbalances, as we've discussed throughout this season.
Hilda Kragha: The second thing is, when it comes to technology, B2C digitization has happened really fast, much faster than B2B digitization. If we want to get good matches at scale on this hand we have to deal with the quality of job seekers. On the other hand, we have to build trust with employers.
Justin Norman: And in this context, this is what hiring looks like in a lot of cases today. 
Hilda Kragha: Historically, the market is an offline market. You are looking for somebody to fill a role, you ask around your friends, you put it in the newspaper if it's that important. I always tell my team, one of our biggest competitors is not even say a LinkedIn or like another competing job platform. No, it's these scribbles on the walls. Just go on the wall on the street, “sales agents need it, call this number”. And people will call that number and they'll show up for interviews and they'll get jobs. That's how decentralized the job market here is.
Justin Norman: Digital jobs marketplaces help solve these problems, of course, not only in better connecting the two sides of the marketplace at scale, but in utilizing data - skills assessment, psychometrics, behavioral analysis - to then leverage their database of jobs seekers to more efficiently find and attract talent for the specific roles employers are looking for. 
And that raises the question - what kinds of roles?
Hilda Kragha: We still have huge gaps across the bread-and-butter of work. And that is education, healthcare, agriculture. We see this a lot on our platform. Yes, software developers and high demand. So are nursery school teachers, there's a huge skills gap there. So are agribusiness experts, so are nurses. There's a large opportunity around skilled labor, highly skilled labor, but you know, still considered cream color, or not white collar in the African market, which is electricians, carpenters, even care work like nannies, for example, and adult care. Those jobs that could be extremely dignified and quite high earning. When I think about where the jobs are going to come from, I think fundamentally it's going to be those bread-and-butter roles in society. 
Justin Norman: And, again, even in an environment of high unemployment, the inefficiencies of the labor marketplace leave lots of roles unfilled. 
Hilda Kragha: You'd imagine that if somebody's looking for nursery school teachers it should be easy and that there should be enough around. But month after month, we still see people looking for nursery school teachers, looking for all sorts of teachers, to be fair. Those roles take a while to fill partly because people don't want them, they're not qualified for them, they're not being trained for them.
Justin Norman: Contrast that to the types of roles that are less in demand and that perhaps too many people are being trained for. 
Hilda Kragha: There's more probably accountants out of jobs because there's no accounting jobs, whereas there's thousands of empty EYFS teaching job opportunities because nobody's going into that space.
Justin Norman: So it's going to take explicit and intentional investment towards these types of roles. 
Hilda Kragha: I think part of it also is historically where the investments went. So the idea in Africa that your child needs to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer, or they're not successful, meant that whoever's making decisions, of course, funded universities better than TVET. There's whole of a mindset shift that needs to happen there because that's where a lot of the jobs are. 
Justin Norman: So when we know where the jobs are, we can more explicitly train and develop the talent to fill those roles. This is largely the work of employment programs.
Mona Mourshed: When you look at what are the drivers of unemployment, whether you are a college graduate or otherwise, there is on the one hand, are there enough jobs being created locally and then is the system, and when I say the system here, I'm talking both about the education and the workforce system. Are they producing people who have the requisite skills, capabilities to successfully get hired and to thrive in those roles?
Justin Norman: That's Dr. Mona Mourshed - the global founding CEO of Generation: You Employed, a nonprofit network focused on economic mobility for adult learners, which was founded with McKinsey. 
Mona Mourshed: Once you get to post-secondary, when you look at the professions in demand in an economy, or in a city even, are there programs that not only are going to train you in the technical skills, behavioral skills, mindsets you need to thrive in those roles, but are they also going to help place you in these roles? In the workforce system, the vast majority of what's out there, one, is it training you in the right stuff? And often the answer to that is no. And then is it helping you to get into the job? And in most cases, the answer is no. 
Justin Norman: It became clear in my conversation with Mona the importance of focusing on the jobs - and the placement. 
Mona Mourshed: Particularly when we're talking about populations that face the greatest systemic barriers in any society, that last mile of how to place you in the job, that matters a lot. I think often when people think workforce, it's all about training. Training is one of seven things that we do.
Justin Norman: Generation has a developed a 7-step process for working with its learners - and it starts with demand. Step 1, jobs and employer engagement, step 2, learner recruitment based on labor demand, step 3, profession-specific training, step 4, interviews with employer partners, step 5, mentorship during and after the program, step 6, calculating return on investment for employers, students, and society, and step 7, taking a data-centered approach at every step along the way. 
You'll notice, crucially, that the first step starts with jobs and employers.
Mona Mourshed: The very first step is that we mobilize jobs for the target profession and that happens first, so that you don't end up in a situation where people train, train, train, and then they come out the other side and there's no job there. So we reverse that. And I'll say that at this point we have about 9,000 employer partners across our countries.
Justin Norman: So jobs first, and then and only then do they recruit talent for the program.
Mona Mourshed: The second piece is that we then recruit our learners then our learners go into profession-specific boot camps that anywhere from 6 to 12 to 14 weeks long. What we're doing in that bootcamp is we're taking individuals who typically have no experience in the given profession and we're preparing them for an entry-level job in that profession. We're supporting them to really master the activities that you need in that job. So the program is 80 percent practicum. And then in parallel, we're offering social support, so mentorship, it could also be a daily living stipend based on the needs of our learners.
Justin Norman: So while the program and its interventions really are holistic - practical experience, ancillary support - it's all designed with a specific outcome and end role in mind, having first started with employee partners. And for Generation, the data piece is then crucial to then assess the success of their programs and iterate accordingly. 
Mona Mourshed: There are very few workforce programs that are able to follow the data trail from these people graduated, these people got placed in jobs or didn't get placed in jobs three months later or six months later that a year later that they are still in the job, and that they are earning income of X, and here's how that income compares to whatever it was they were earning prior. So that data chain is absent in many workforce systems across the world.
Justin Norman: And here are the results for Generation. 
Mona Mourshed: 65 percent of our graduates have been hired by repeat employers. And that's really important because that means that our employers keep coming back and it's sticky. And we're now in 16 countries and over 68,000 graduates and an 83 percent job placement rate.
Justin Norman: When we come back, we'll hear more from Mona, about demand-side needs, in particular. But before that, here's another word from our sponsor MFS Africa. 
Earlier in the show, we heard from Baxi's COO Mxolisi Msutwana about the integration of Baxi into the broader MFS Africa network. We also talked about what that means from a user perspective. 
**Mxolisi Msutwana: **So some of the initiatives that we are doing and are quite interesting for us, is offering the ability, for example, from our mobile network operators, money transfer organizations, to be able to access the agent network in Nigeria. And this is where it beautifully comes together. If you are a Baxi customer, you've already provided your KYC, you have your wallet with Baxi, you're paying your utilities, you're buying your air time, you're doing your agency banking. Now, let's say you want to be able to pay for your Netflix or pay for Spotify. Through your Baxi wallet, you are able to just request for a virtual card and once your card is founded, then you're free to perform a various number of e-commerce transactions. So it is really synergies like that that we are looking for and making sure that we are trying to provide those and extend those to our users through the power of MFS Africa. And those typical use cases are not ones that you would find in an agency business in Nigeria. So this is what positions and makes Baxi quite unique, when we put the power of MFS Africa behind it.
Justin Norman: So across the continent, there's this supply and demand imbalance. And there's a related and interesting question - how do we get more employers to change their hiring practices in the context of these labor market efficiencies? Or how do we get them to use and support workforce programs like Generation? And why do they choose to use them in the first place?
Mona Mourshed: We've always been very clear that employers will only engage if they have a high level of desperation. So we have this informal desperation index for our employer partners where, the greater the level of desperation, the more likely they are to try something different in how they hire. And that works very well to our advantage for our learners. Our learners typically don't have the same profile as what the employers are used to hiring. So if an employer can find enough of their usual hire, they're not going to look at a different talent pool. 
Justin Norman: Here are employers’ particular challenges. 
Mona Mourshed: For us, employers who are experiencing at least one of three challenges. It could be scarcity, they need a hundred people, but they can only find 10. Or, if they're experiencing high churn, so at three months they have like a 60 percent churn rate or whatever it might be. Or, if they're experiencing high levels of productivity or quality variation, those are the employers who come to our table, if you will.
Justin Norman: And at the same time, Generation is measuring and demonstrating the benefit to the companies in hiring in this way. 
Mona Mourshed: We look at the positive business impact that comes from exploring a different talent pipeline than what an employer typically looks towards. And you show not only is this changing their life, but it is resulting in strong productivity, or strong sales outcomes, or strong quality outcomes. We look at have we been able to, first of all, reduce the employer's cost per hire, and then what's happening in terms of speed to promotion and so on. That's where the magic really happens because then it's a win-win. 
Justin Norman: Together, both the increased desperation of employers, as well as the positive outcomes from hiring in this different way, Mona hopes, will have longer-term implications from not only compelling employers to have a greater willingness to hire from a talent pool that they may have previously not considered hiring from, but also to compelling employers to re-imagine their hiring processes entirely. 
Mona Mourshed: The next frontier is it's not just do something with Generation, but can you actually change the way you hire full stop. Since our founding in 2015, we now have 68,000 graduates and while we are enormously proud of that, that's obviously a drop in the bucket when you look at the volume of the unemployed and underemployed across the world. We truly believe that an important path to scale is by embedding the Generation methodology inside public workforce systems. There are considerable resources that are going towards workforce, trillions of dollars across the world, but yet it doesn't yield employment and income outcomes as it should. And so that's a really important way of how can we look at existing workforce infrastructure, assets, resources, and reorient them towards a Generation methodology, but obviously done in very close partnership with government partners as we do that.
Justin Norman: Back in episode 2 of this season, we published a case study on the distributed renewable energy sector - it's a growing industry, it's creating local jobs, and it compels us to explore how we can take advantage and maximize the opportunity from a job creation perspective. 
But the idea of job creation is interesting - it's something I talk pretty regularly about with The Flip's b-mic Sayo Folawiyo. See, when he's not recording podcasts with me, he runs Kandua, a marketplace and operating system for home service providers. And he's asked this question a lot - to what extent is Kandua creating new jobs. 
And it's an interesting question in the context of this episode on job matching, where like the distributed renewable energy sector, Sayo and Kandua can see where demand is going, and can help orient labor towards these opportunities, much like Generation or Harambee, who we spoke to last episode, are taking a demand-led approach to their employment programs based on the needs of their employment partners. And in the context of the multi-stakeholder approach we spoke about last episode, this conversation with Sayo paints a clear picture of the role the private sector can play in matching supply to latent demand.
So that's what I spoke to Sayo about in this episode's retrospective. Take a listen.
Sayo Folawiyo: What we are building is not just about helping someone who does a job, do a job well. It is, in fact, it actually might be that simple. Helping people who are small businesses do more jobs. Now, where those jobs are coming from, they have continued to change for as long as I've been doing this.  Now, for instance, you're seeing solar push up, and seasonality comes into it. Some guys are plumbers and roof guys in the rain season, and handymen in the summer season. People follow where the volume of jobs is coming from. So what I'm more interested in, what I think about more is about how do we build in a way that is modular enough to face where those kind of big volumes of jobs are gonna be coming from at any time.
Justin Norman: And position your service providers to some extent in the right direction?
Sayo Folawiyo: Yeah, for sure, that's a fun one. And I think you get to do that, again, when we talk about the coordination layer, when you start to understand where those jobs are coming from and where it's increasing, and who can do what and what is the typology rather of job types. Okay, this is the kind of job that electricians could be quite easily moved to. If we think about who's going to be good at cell phone repair? What kind of skills do you need for that? Okay, cool. We have a bunch of electricians that are up to this level that we can move towards that. When you have the demand and the supply and you have the platform in the middle that's able to really understand what's going on, I think you can point it towards any kind of skilled job. What I want to work on, and continue to work on, is being the best at understanding the dynamics between demand and supply and building the shit around that to make it work together.
Justin Norman: Yeah, it's kind of actually like the DRE case study. You can see this wave of increased demand in renewable energy. Like in South Africa, Eskom is going to be in load shedding for the rest of our lives. Cape Town just said that you could sell renewable energy back to the grid. Then what needs to happen in order for your guys in particular to be the ones?
Sayo Folawiyo: Yeah. And then you look at the biggest bottleneck to a lot of that in South Africa is quality installers. I already have a few, I have a great partnership with great training companies that can spin up a program to get the right people into it. So it wouldn't be very hard. The way I think about it from my perspective is that I'm a wonderful input into that channel, like, I can tell you what demand is looking like. I can also tell you what the shortfall is looking like. I can also tell you the feedback that we're receiving from these kind of customers, these kind of industries. And then I think another key problem that people have is like, where do we go after this? Demand-led training - that also means that there is a pathway for people to come to after they're trained or retrained or whatever it is.
Justin Norman: So it's actually job matching, and connecting labor to job opportunities, it's kind of the same thing. In that case, it's full-time jobs. In this case, it's just demand for service jobs, and you guys are informing the workforce programs what they ought to focus on. 
Sayo Folawiyo: Sure. Yeah. 
Justin Norman: It's the same thing actually. 
Sayo Folawiyo: Yeah, for sure. A hundred percent the same thing.
Justin Norman: That's it for this episode of The Flip. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd be very grateful if you considered sharing with a friend or a colleague who you think may enjoy it as well. For more from The Flip, you can follow us on social media at @TheFlipAfrica or subscribe to our newsletter on our website,
Thanks as always for listening, and we'll see you next time.