From dreams to reality: Young leaders innovating and creating opportunities in Africa
May 24, 2023
As an ambitious astrophysics graduate from Williams College in the United States, my journey has taken me from the mysteries of the cosmos to a mission grounded in real-world impact. Growing up in Zimbabwe, I witnessed first-hand the challenges that afflict developing nations, particularly youth unemployment. However, armed with the power of education, I have set out to defy the odds and nurture a vision that extends far beyond personal success.
My journey from Zimbabwe to the United States marked a pivotal chapter in my life, where the transformative potential of technology was unveiled before my eyes on an unprecedented scale. The awe-inspiring impact of a GoFundMe campaign, the seamless convenience of an Amazon delivery, and the exhilarating experience of taking my first Uber ride left an indelible mark on my perception of what technology could achieve.
While these technologies were commonplace to my peers in the US, they were nothing short of mind-blowing to me. They inspired me to harness technology to solve developmental challenges that I deeply care about, one of which is providing access to decent work and income for Africa's youth. Fuelled by this passion, I embarked on a journey that led me to co-found Fixa, a digital staffing agency connecting construction businesses to over 1,000 workers on a daily basis. As the Chief Technology Officer at Fixa, I am leading my engineering team in building a platform to improve the lives of informal workers.
To address the challenge of informal employability that approximately 400 million people in Africa are facing, Fixa is building a "LinkedIn for the linked out" by creating digital career identities for Africa's informal workers. By digitizing the informal sector, we are establishing a platform that allows workers to have a proven history of their employment and earnings for the first time on the continent.
While building Fixa, we had to ensure that our technology was accessible to informal workers, many of whom do not have access to smartphones. To make our technology accessible, we developed a USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data or “quick codes”) application that allows workers to access their profiles and earnings using their feature phones for free and offline.
To date, Fixa has digitized 5,000 blue-collar workers, connecting them to 200,000 jobs, and distributed over US$1.5 million to workers and their communities. However, our goal at Fixa is beyond just connecting workers to jobs; we aim to create digital career identities for informal workers and grant them access to the formal economy.
I have made it a point in my life to prioritize impact in everything I do. Fortunately, through my endeavours I have been tapped as a Generation17 young leader recognized by Samsung and UNDP for my contributions towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through my work at Fixa, I am contributing to SDG 8, which seeks to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
I chose to become an entrepreneur because I believe in making a sustainable impact. The value I create through my impact-driven business not only helps informal workers and businesses but also contributes to my mission of scaling sustainably. With that being said, I still have to admit that being an entrepreneur in Africa is challenging. Most African countries are young and developing, and as a result, the people have low buying power. There is also limited access to early-stage capital, making it difficult for small businesses to grow. The lack of basic infrastructure, such as reliable electricity and internet access, poses additional hurdles for entrepreneurs trying to run their businesses conventionally.
Amidst these challenges, Africa also presents promising opportunities for entrepreneurs. The increasing penetration of mobile technology and financial services has opened doors for young visionaries to develop highly scalable solutions at a low cost. Despite the obstacles, I firmly believe in the potential of African entrepreneurs to overcome these barriers and make a lasting impact on the continent.
My journey from astrophysics to entrepreneurship has been incredible! From studying the mysteries of the cosmos to leveraging technology to create impact on a large scale, my experiences have been nothing short of transformative. While the challenges of being an entrepreneur in Africa are many, the opportunities are equally abundant, and I am excited to be a part of the movement towards an inclusive future of work on the continent.
Generation17 supports a group of inspiring young leaders, aged 18 to 30, dedicated to innovating for humanity and mobilizing global communities.
To learn more about this initiative and meet the Generation17 young leaders, the visionaries, advocates and entrepreneurs building a better future, visit generation17.undp.org.
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