Sandy Simagwali, Co-Founder of Graft Africa
The Human Resource (HR) industry is undergoing major transformation, and African startups have been catching up by building platforms that reflect this evolving nature of the workplace and workforce. Graft Africa, a Zambian HR tech startup is well positioned in championing this process, currently working with Pepsi Zambia and Lamasat International Zambia. To learn more about the company, its disruptions in the HR space and future plans, Alaba Ayinuola did an interview with Sandy Simagwali a Co-Founder and CEO. Excerpt.
Alaba: Can you tell us about Graft Africa and the gap it’s filling in the current HR landscape in Zambia?
Sandy: Graft is a recruiting software company that helps people find jobs they love, and helps companies find great talent that helps drive to their success. We researched and found out that most recruiters still use manual processes during their hiring workflow which include key things like tracking candidates in their emails/inbox, manual posting of job openings to multiple platforms e.g company career page, social media, job boards, and manually scheduling interviews.
At Graft, we built a platform that would help hiring managers, manage candidates easily through the dashboard with functions like sorting and searching e.g by institutions, skills, qualifications, location, etc. Automate interview and interview reminder notifications, a click to post jobs to all major portals helping increase reach.
Alaba: How did it all start and what attracted you into staffing and recruitment?
Sandy: While I was head of Sales at Musanga Logistics, I was given a task to onboard someone within my department, and carrying out the most of the recruiting process which involved receiving applications, filtering out candidates, interviews and onboarding the talent in the organisation was pretty much of overwhelming task whilst trying to meet sales objectives. Cut the story short the hire we made was not what we were looking for. He did not meet expectations so resigned after 2 months. A huge blow to the company’s productivity and revenue.
The idea to build Graft was born after that incident. At that point I was running a business called WinningCV, a resume building platform that used to build high visual resumes for candidates, while working at Musanga I met my very good friend and Co Founder Mulenga Bowa, who was working as full stack developer at Musanga Logistics and was part time building a Job Board which was going to help candidates find their dream job. We had a discussion that led to multiple research and meetings with key recruiters.
Mulenga and I decided to become Co-Founders and started Graft after an amazing journey of growth at Musanga. July 2019 we decided to make the huge jump, we quit our jobs and went in full time with Graft.
Alaba: What does the process entail both for a talent and a hiring firm?
Sandy: Our process aims to benefit both the talent and the hiring firm in the sense that: For candidates, we believe that leaving candidates in the dark not only hurts the chances of building a relationship for the future, but has a probability of tarnishing the brand as well, and our goal at Graft is to ensure that candidates are highly engaged throughout the hiring journey.
Our process also entails that candidates are able to learn more on company culture and values throughout the hiring process, enabling candidate to measure if they fit and would want to be part of the organisation. For hiring firms, the process is mainly helping them reduce the time it takes for them to source, screen, onboard and hire talent.
Alaba: Why should a hiring company choose your company over other recruiting firms?
Sandy: As highlighted in the previous question, our platform helps hiring companies reduce the time it takes source, screen and onboard talent in this regard. With Graft, hiring managers are able to filter and screen candidates with ease and make much more data driven selection of candidates that will help meet their company goals and needs. Our platform allows hiring firms have enough time to focus on other important tasks (e.g evaluating employee relations, orientation and training program and implementing employee benefit programs e.t.c).
Alaba: What are the challenges Graft Africa is facing and you as an entrepreneur?
Sandy: Building a product that users will love has been one of the major challenges we have faced. Another challenge has been most recruiters do not want to make the huge jump to adapt new technology. Also, for a startup, there is a little receptiveness from organisations to entrust a key aspect as recruiting to a software created by young people. Other challenge has been raising capital.
As for me as an entrepreneur, the ability to balance on growing as a person and running a company and ensuring we have users who are using our product, has been a constant battle I have struggled with. This is due to the fact that am mostly all things, apart from product technology.
Alaba: How does your company measure its impact? What’s the future for your business?
Sandy: How we measure impact is by our ability to help create jobs in Zambia and across Africa. With the unemployment rate in Zambia slowly dropping from 7.21% in 2018 to a 7.15% in 2019. Our goal is to help create more jobs for young people and add up to national economy by ensuring everyone has a better standard of living. We also aim to measure impact through organisations that use our platform to carry out their recruiting needs, onboard great talent that meets company’s goals and needs. Seeing a company onboard great talent is our very mission that is at the heart of everything we do.
Our measurement is based on companies succeeding with great people (e.g reduced turnover, onboarding great talent that drives to their success). That for us is impact. Providing candidates with tools that enable them get Jobs they love and having an amazing experience per every application sent, to us is labelled as another form of impact. The future for Graft is to be a Leader in HR technology in Africa.
Alaba: The HR industry is moving from a human-driven to a more data-driven approach. How’s your startup enhancing this shift?
Sandy: With some key tools we have built, recruiting managers are able to make much more data driven decisions, e.g who to invite for an interview, have a talent pool that they can easily revert to, enabling them reduce the time and costs to fill out a new role. In regards to data, it is a tool and not a be all and end solution. To make an effective hire, a mixture of data and human judgement is key, no matter how technology makes the process much more efficient, we believe recruiters could become much more data driven whilst keeping the human aspect intact.
Alaba: What in your opinion is the best solution to the high unemployment rate in Africa?
Sandy: Well in my view there are a vast and a number of challenges across Africa, we just need more people that will stop complaining about the problems they see and aim to create solutions that will branch off into Global brands that will create more jobs. With a lot of problems that are surfacing Africa, lies a gem of bold Africans that will face the problems head on and create solutions that will enable job creation for many Africans.
Alaba: Can you share some insights into the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Zambia?
Sandy: Its quite exciting that we are in an era where a lot of Zambians are starting amazing companies that are truly solving peoples problem’s. From startups like Zazu that is helping people manage their finances, Emsika an agriculture online platform that is helping connect suppliers and buyers in agriculture related products, Musanga a transportation marketplace that connects shippers to drivers to improve delivery efficiency, cost and provide data visibility, Spotless Africa, whose aim is to rethink, reimagine, and reshape the way cleaning services and products are delivered in Africa. Just to mention but a few entrepreneurs and a whole lot more that are stepping up to help solve key problems is an amazing period that will help us change the whole dynamic of challenges we face as a nation.
Alaba: How is the Zambian government supporting entrepreneurs in your country?
Sandy: Well, *clearing throat*. I have not seen much support to be honest, maybe other entrepreneurs can correct me if am wrong. But based on the ecosystem of entrepreneurs that I network with, not much has been done from my view. Agriculture entrepreneurship at a minimal rate has received some form of support. The future is bright, I believe with more support from the government we could see a lot of growth in our country in regards jobs, etc.
Graft Africa powered projects:
Wahida Mohamed: Empowering Women And Championing Islamic Financing In Sub Saharan Africa
Wahida Mohamed is the founder of Islamic FinTech Hub and a retail banker with over 10 years’ experience in conventional International trade finance and SME Relationship Management. She has also worked for a Democratic Governance Programme implemented for 3 years immediately post the promulgation of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution. She has been of service to Somaliland by working for a Mott Macdonald managed – Somaliland Development Fund Secretariat that provided and managed an external development budget aligned to the country’s 5 year National Development Plan.
In order to make better use of her Monitoring and Evaluation qualifications Wahida founded One OAK Consultants that was selected out of 20,000 applicants to be part of the inaugural cohort of The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. One OAK Consultants uses Randomised Controlled Trials. It also makes a comparison of objective and subjective indicators to determine baseline and assess progress as well as impact of development programming interventions. One OAK Consultant she begun exploring the use of Immersive Virtual Reality as a reporting and advocacy tool.
Wahida’s passion for Islamic Finance Research has enabled her to participate in various studies in Sub Saharan Africa commissioned by The Islamic Research Training Institute – the research arm of The Islamic Development Bank, headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Her forte is Islamic financial inclusion, capability and consumer protection studies. She has also led a team that developed a Working Paper entitled Islamic Banking and Economic Infrastructure Development -Kenya’s prospects for The Kenya Bankers Association – Centre for Research on Financial Markets and Policy.
Her keen interest in addressing systemic barriers and other challenges that prevent women and girls from accessing and using financial services therefore impacting negatively on their economic empowerment is one of the drivers for the establishment of her latest venture– The Islamic Fintech Hub for Sub Saharan Africa (IsFHSSA). The other reason being winning a PhD Scholarship Award for ICT for Development.
IsFHSSA targets start-ups from ideation stage with a gender focus lens. Its first cohort comprises of an agribusiness with a halal certification feature that it is looking forward to developing in collaboration with Indonesian Halal Certification experts -PT. Ammacue Ihalals Ummatin. In this way the start-up will open up the Asian and other Islamic Consumer markets for its Sub Saharan Africa domiciled suppliers. This start-up has been selected for 12 months incubation, capacity building and financing by The Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC) – an initiative supported by the World Bank’s infoDev and is the first in a global network of CICs launched by infoDev’s Climate Technology Program (CTP).KCIC is funded by the United Kingdom’s UKaid and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Another startup is a Takaful solution provider that leverages on blockchain and has just completed participation in round two of the on-going 2020 Corda Challenge. This startup is looking forward to working with Takaful Outsource of Netherlands to develop its sharia compliant products.
IsFHSSA is also host to an e-learning platform that will make use of TAIF Digital Institute – an Islamic Finance & Technology company with offices in UAE & Canada. TAIF is committed to support IsFHSSA initiative to deliver world-class Digital Learning Experience across Kenya & region. TAIF is seeking to connect students and teachers from different schools across Sub Saharan Africa.
Other start-ups in IsFHSSA first cohort are a wholly mobile sharia complaint microfinance targeting the Gambian Market; an app targeting sports persons and teams with the aim of building sports careers as well as refurbishing/commercialisation of grass root sports facilities; a sharia compliant mobile lending platform; institutionalization of Zakat vide a network of masjids; automation of sharia advisory services using Machine Learning and sharia complaint crowd funding platform for real estate and specialized agricultural projects development.IsFHSSA is part of the Fintech Galaxy UAE Ecosystem.
Clearly IsFHSSA less than six months’ trajectory is steep and promises to offer interesting businesses and discourse around Islamic Fintech from Sub Saharan Africa.
Wahida was born and raised in Mombasa, Kenya. She holds a Masters in Monitoring and Evaluation from Maseno University, a BSc. Statistics from Egerton University, Post Graduate Certificate in Business Administration from the University of Manchester and Diploma in Financial Services Management from the Institute of Financial Services UK.
Serah Odende, co-founder of African Harvesters Talks Entrepreneurship and Her Initiative Ag4SDGs
Serah Odende is co-Founder and CEO of African Harvesters, an AgriMedia (marketing, advocacy and training) startup based in Lagos, Nigeria. She has years of experience working directly with critical stakeholders in the agricultural ecosystem focusing on Agriculture and SDGs, policy advocacy, research, training and community development. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, she talks about her entrepreneurship journey and initiative Ag4SDGs, and more. Excerpts.
Alaba: Kindly tell us about African Harvesters and the gap it’s filling?
Serah: African Harvesters is an agribusiness hub for agricultural stakeholders across the African agribusiness value chains (farm to table). We fill the information gap in the industry, we agvocate youth engagement and investment in Agriculture, we also agvocate for women inclusion in Agribusiness.
Alaba: What sparked the interest?
Serah: Wow! I would say unemployment and passion for food security. I was a graduate out of the university searching for a job and I got an opportunity to work with an agribusiness association, that’s where was my interest in Agriculture rose.
Alaba: Could you share some of your challenges and how you’re navigating them?
Serah: Challenges are milestones to be crushed! As an organization, our major challenge is getting quality human resource as our volunteers. We resolved the challenge by giving incentives to our volunteers across Africa.
Alaba: How does Agriculture interact with SDG goals?
Serah: The main SDG that is Agriculture inclined is the SDG2 which is zero hunger. Zero hunger basically means no hunger. For this SDG to be achieved by 2030, this means that there would be no hunger as the case may be. For this to be achieved climate smart agriculture needs to be upheld which is SDG 14, gender equality and women inclusion in agricultural decisions which is SDG 10 and 5 respectively.
Aquaculture needs to be explored to attain food sufficiency which is SDG 14. SDG 15 interacts with Agriculture in the aspect of land degradation, biodiversity, afforestation etc.
Alaba: The Covid-19 pandemic has negative impact on the Agricultural value chain. What solutions will you proffer?
Serah: There should be synergy between every Agriculture stakeholders across the value chain. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the significance of synergy; government, developmental partners and private sectors needs to work together to achieve zero hunger by 2030.
Alaba: Are we post Covid-19 ready and what are the prospects to look out for?
Serah: Yes we are post COVID-19 ready. As an organisation, African Harvesters has always embraced digital solutions to our operations as we are in strategic countries across Africa, the pandemic has made us to re engineer our mode of operations.
Alaba: What support do you expect from the government?
Serah: The pandemic has added to the responsibility of the government to do better. I expect the government to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Multiple taxations is not the solution.
Alaba: Could you tell us more about your initiative, Agriculture for SDGs (Ag4SDGs) and it’s impact?
Serah: Agriculture for SDGs (Ag4SDGs) is our sustainability initiative at African Harvesters, we enlighten the public on the impact of Agriculture in solving the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). We hold online sessions to share more light on the relationship Agriculture has with the SDGs. We also teach kids on sustainability, food waste, hand washing, recycling, water management among other things. We plan to expand our reach on the Ag4SDGs initiative to schools and other African countries outside Nigeria.
Alaba: What’s the future for African Harvesters?
Serah: We envision being the go to resource platform for opportunities, agribusiness happenings across Africa. We also want to open up frontiers for funding opportunities for the platform- African Harvesters.
Alaba: How are you encouraging young female entrepreneurs into the agribusiness ecosystem?
Serah: We at African Harvesters support women inclusion in Agriculture which is SDG 5 and SDG 10. We uphold gender equality, as a female founded startup we include women in all our opportunities with our developmental partners and negotiate equal benefits for our male and female beneficiaries.
B I O G R A P H Y
Serah Odende is an outstanding sustainability development advocate with experience in SDGs 2 and 12. She is the co-Founder and CEO of African Harvesters, an AgriMedia, marketing and advocacy startup based in Lagos, Nigeria. Serah is also a reputable digital transformation consultant with experience in training, digital marketing, social media, email automation and customer experience.
Serah Odende helps organisations position their brands on traditional and digital media.
Chidi Nwaogu: Multi Award-Winning Entrepreneur Launches Global Fellowship Program for Aspiring And Early-Stage Entrepreneurs
Chidi Nwaogu, Founder Publiseer (Source: Chidi Nwaogu).
On the journey to impact over 10,000 professionals before year-end, Nigerian serial tech entrepreneur and software developer, Chidi Nwaogu, launches a global fellowship program for those passionate about solving some of the world’s most pressing problems through innovation. Savvy Fellowship is built for those who want to build their own impact-driven business but don’t know how to, or for those who own an early-stage business and want to grow and scale their impact into new markets or verticals. It is a 12 weeks e-learning, assessment, and mentorship program, where individuals learn everything from ideation to venture-scaling. After going through the 12-week program, Fellows receive a Certificate of Completion to proudly share with their professional network.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many have lost their jobs and are now living in an uncertain world. I have decided to start the Savvy Fellowship, to equip passionate individuals with the necessary knowledge and skill they need to start their own impact-driven business and succeed as entrepreneurs,” says Chidi Nwaogu, co-founder at Savvy, multi-award-winning serial entrepreneur, and author of the ‘Dear Entrepreneur’ book series. “It’s no news that every day, I love sharing with others what I’ve learned from my experience as an entrepreneur, and Savvy is just an extension of that personal journey of sharing for me.
Savvy is a 12-week-long virtual fellowship program that runs throughout the year. Some of the things Savvy Fellows learn include fundraising for their business, building the right team to execute their business strategies, building buzz around their product or service, achieving product-market fit, scaling into new markets and verticals, and building customer loyalty and retention.”
Savvy Fellowship kicks off with a rigorous 12-weeks e-learning experience. Savvy Fellows get to learn how to start, build, and scale an impact venture. Using visual presentations, they get to answer all the relevant questions they need to kickstart their impact venture, gain early traction, achieve product-market fit, and scale into newer markets. Some of the things they learn during the program are ‘understanding their customer’, ‘building a product or service that effectively solves their key challenges’, and ‘effectively positioning their solution in the market.’ Savvy is for every impact entrepreneur, no matter what stage their venture is.
During the 12 weeks of learning, unlearning, and relearning, Fellows can test their understanding by taking weekly multiple-choice quizzes. Fellows use the weekly assessments to identify their strengths and weaknesses and work on improving their areas of weaknesses. While learning, Fellows are offered mentorship as well, from entrepreneurs who have built post-revenue businesses in diverse sectors, which is a great way to have a better understanding of their industry. The Savvy mentorship team includes nearly 60 changemakers from 20 countries, with a combined experience of over 250 years. Savvy also runs a peer-to-peer mentorship program that helps Fellows learn from each other, as they ask questions, and have other Fellows help answer them.
Savvy Fellowship launched on August 4, 2020, with its call for application. So far, nearly 10,000 applications from 71 countries have been received for the Savvy Fellowship program, and 1,222 Savvy Fellows (~10%) from 64 countries around the world, has been selected. The program intends to select 2,000 Fellows, so call for application is still open. There is no cohort, no application deadline, and no ethnic restriction, so you can apply today. Savvy accepts new Fellows between the ages of 18 to 40. It’s a rolling Fellowship program, so new applications are accepted, every day, year-round.
Interested individuals can apply to the Fellowship program from https://savvyfellows.com/apply/
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