It is hard to find a job in Nairobi. Even good qualifications do not open all the doors. The competition is ruthless. There is no shortage of applicants and the number swells by a million each year. Nairobi, full of smart young university graduates, may be Africa’s toughest job market.
Sylvia Biwott and Gregory Oyolo are good examples of young, educated people in the growing middle class.
“I graduated from university in November 2015 and have been looking for work ever since. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t fill out a new application,” said Gregory in Nairobi last March.
“I’ve sent off ten job applications since last week. A few times I even got as far as an interview,” explained Sylvia, who has almost completed her university studies and is already looking for work.
The big problem is that people usually find out about vacancies via a friend or a friend of a friend. Without connections you simply do not hear what is available.
Net-based Fuzu, accessed by computer or mobile phone, has changed things completely.
“I heard about it from a friend who recommended it,” said Gregory, who dreams of a job as a buyer. “Thanks to Fuzu I receive daily news of all vacant positions. It even reminds me about the deadline for applying for each job. It keeps me active.”
Sylvia has been looking for sales and marketing work. She discovered Fuzu online and has found it very useful throughout the job application process.
“Applying for a job takes a lot of time. Now Fuzu sends me daily announcements about jobs in my field. It’s a great help.”
Gregory thought the same. “Fuzu makes job seeking easy and keeps you informed of what’s on offer. If you create your own profile on Fuzu, it looks for the jobs that suit you and sends you messages about them.”
Corruption in Kenya extends into the labour market. Applicants may have to give a month’s pay to some middle-level boss in order to get a job. Sometimes they pay even to get into a job interview.
“And many interviews are just formalities because in reality the position has already been promised to some acquaintance,” Sylvia added.
She thought that the biggest improvement in the situation would be if more jobs were available. Gregory said bluntly that the system is rotten; it should serve ordinary Kenyans and not the other way round.
Fuzu’s managing director Jussi Hinkkanen calculates that, of Kenya’s population of 46 million, 18 million are economically active but only 3 million are officially employed.
“That means that 15 million are either doing agricultural work or have informal jobs like drivers, carpenters or small-scale entrepreneurs,” he says.
“Forty percent are either completely or partly unemployed. It is common to earn a living from many small sources. Kenya has a special name – hustlers – for people who work like this.”
Fuzu does not just mediate jobs. Hinkkanen says it is constantly developing and he was keen to explain its new features to Sylvia and Gregory. At the same time Fuzu staff received invaluable direct user feedback.
“You should fill out your profile with extra areas of expertise like computing skills, Gregory. Employers also appreciate soft skills on a CV, things like the ability to socialise and be an effective team player.”
He advised Sylvia to add outside references to her profile.
“Both of you should now boost your profiles. A stronger profile is more attractive to employers.”
Next Jussi Hinkkanen asked them if they had tried Fuzu’s 130 fact sheets, its training programme and its career development application.
Fuzu even has a digital assistant, Mama Fuzu, operating in the same way as Windows’ Cortana or Apple’s Siri. Mama Fuzu provides hints like which Fuzu courses would be most useful to the user.
Fuzu is important for job applicants in three ways, Hinkkanen says. “It is a platform for planning your way forward in life. Secondly, it can teach you new things about seeking jobs and developing a career. And most obviously, it can find your next job.”
Job seekers pay nothing to use the service. Fuzu gets income from services to employers. The advantage for employers is that, instead of having to wade through thousands of applications, Fuzu helps sort out the most suitable.
If they wish, jobseekers can buy extra services, such as Instant Feedback, which costs 100 Kenyans shillings and shows how the user’s chances of getting a job can be improved. Also available is a free psychological test that explores the kind of work that would suit the applicant best.
Hinkkanen says the important thing is that Fuzu has built a community for its users. They are not alone in their struggle for a living in a tough world.
“We create a feeling of togetherness. Dream, grow, be found. Our aim is to make Fuzu a one-stop service containing everything necessary for finding a job and developing your career.”
Fuzu has also received support from Finnpartnership. During 2014–2015, Fuzu received support to complete a feasibility study, train personnel, identify partners and piloting the project in Kenya. Read more on the Finnpartership website.
Sector: Information technology
Year of investment: 2016
Heading for the world’s largest labour markets
Fuzu is a Kenyan-Finnish company established in the wake of Nokia. Jussi Impiö was head of Nokia’s research centre in Nairobi from 2007 onwards and established Fuzu in 2013. Jussi Hinkkanen also worked for the mobile phone giant, where he learned about developing African economies. He joined Fuzu because he felt that the best way to help developing countries is to give people the tools to help themselves.
“I wanted to do something with a big social impact,” Hinkkanen said in Nairobi in March 2017.
Fuzu has already achieved that. More than 800,000 Kenyans have used it. The aim is to rapidly expand operations in East Africa, South Africa and later elsewhere in developing world such as Southeast Asia, labour markets of hundreds of millions of people. Fuzu currently has 21 employees.
The labour markets of Africa are immense and steadily growing. By 2035 Africa will have a larger labour force than India or China. In Kenya alone one million new people are born every year.
“Fuzu has to be rapidly scalable. By 2020 another 120 million new people will have entered the African labour market. If Africa’s 740 million people of working age cannot find anything worthwhile to do, there will be enormous social problems. The impact will be felt as far away as Europe, even in Finland,” Hinkkanen says.
Developing African labour markets and especially preventing youth unemployment have been key motives for Finnfund to finance Fuzu. In November 2015 Finnfund granted the company a loan of EUR 0.5 million, which can be increased in future to EUR 1.5 million. The finance is intended to support for Fuzu’s expansion in Africa and Asia.
In January 2017 Fuzu was selected fifth among the most interesting companies to watch in Africa.
Finnfund supports Finnish-Kenyan Fuzu's expansion in Africa and Asia