Unemployment is THE major socio-economic problem in South Africa with the unemployment rate reaching a 14-year high of 27.7% in the first quarter of 2017 according to Statistics South Africa The youth unemployment rate is even more disturbing, with 38.6% of 15-34 year-olds being out of work and, if you include those who have become disillusioned, and therefore have stopped looking for work, there are more than a third (36.4%) of South Africans who do not have jobs.
The consequences of the alarming rate of unemployment are that millions of South African families are living in poverty and the nation’s economy, which is already suffering the effects of being downgraded to junk status by the international rating agencies, is being further weakened by the percentage of graduates and school leavers who are not being employed. In the absence of effective solutions being provided by government or the private sector several entrepreneurs have been compelled to develop online platforms designed to enable unemployed South Africans to access job opportunities.
As an HR and recruitment technology consultant I have been privileged to meet some of these startup founders and hear more about how they are striving to alleviate unemployment through innovative apps and software, and they deserve to benefit from national and international exposure so that they can receive support from businesses and investors to reach more unemployed South Africans. I hope that this article will go some way towards these startups securing that backing.
So, in alphabetical order rather than order of preference (as I do not want to show any bias), here are the five South African startups which I believe have the highest potential to reduce unemployment and allow businesses to access a larger pool of talent, and therefore address the skills shortages that also affect the South African economy:
Clockwork App (www.clockworkapp.co.za) is a free mobile recruitment platform which aims to “bridge the gap between employers and jobseekers” by enabling companies to access the best labour staff in their area and pay them securely so that they do not need to worry about the risk of cash payments (crime is another major issue in South Africa). The app also allows “unskilled workers to find quick, easy work on a shift by shift basis”, and in doing so to develop work ready skills which will help them get full-time work. The goal of Jamie Rood and Jonathan Kingwill, the co-founders of Clockwork App, is “to reduce unemployment through the creation of low skilled, short term work for anyone in any location” and their ultimate aim is “to become the most popular, unique and life changing low skilled employment service in the world.”
EmployMe South Africa (employmesa.com) is a web application that aims to reduce the cost of attending interviews by giving jobseekers the opportunity to upload a short video to accompany their online profile so that employers can get an idea of their personality, which is an important factor in assessing their cultural fit. For employers it saves time and money in the shortlisting and interviewing of unsuitable candidates because, with “EmployMe Video resumes, [they] can ‘meet’ [their] prospects even before [they] read their CV.” Whitney Jacobs, the founder of EmployMe South Africa says that “[r]ealising that most youth are not prepared for the labour market and have little access to employment opportunities sparked the idea for EmployMe South Africa” and they are planning to “improve the web application, and also add much needed features that can assist both job seekers and employers.”
ImpressMe (impressme.io) is an online platform that enables employers to post vacancies free of charge which are then distributed to users of their mobile app. Rather than just active jobseekers, these users (known as “Talent Finders”) are also incentivised to refer passive jobseekers for these vacancies through giving them a percentage of ImpressMe’s service fee of 5% of the candidate’s annual salary. Employers can also review applications, including a 60-second video of the candidate and 5-point behavioural evaluation, and schedule interviews free of charge. The benefits to individuals are that it enables them to earn money through referring jobseekers as well as to find their ideal job. According to founder Amit Ramdath, ImpressMe can turn an individual “into a recruiter while making the process faster, cheaper and more insightful for employers.”
Anish Shivdasani, founder of Giraffe (www.giraffe.co.za) believes that the main reasons that unemployment in South Africa is so high are that “jobseekers don’t have sufficient access and visibility to opportunities” and employers “struggle to recruit the right staff because finding the right candidates can be time consuming, costly or both” despite there being a large number of jobseekers. This is why he decided to create Giraffe, which is a “fully automated mobile recruitment service that improves jobseekers’ access to opportunities, and helps businesses recruit staff faster and more affordably than any other way.” Jobseekers can better access opportunities by using Giraffe’s free mobile app to create a CV on their cellphone and, once employers submit a job request, “Giraffe’s matching algorithm automatically identifies” if they are suitable and then “contacts them by SMS and schedules interviews.”
Mintor (gomintor.com) is “a youth placement platform that helps businesses find qualified skills, carefully matched with their business needs and culture.” It does this by using skills-profiling technology which improves the matching of talent and jobs The platform is targeted at students and graduates who are normally costly and difficult for businesses to employ as it applies for and obtains up to 90% subsidies for the salaries they pay to interns. According to Leànne Viviers, CEO of Mintor, since founding Mintor her “experience has proven that over 60% of internships are converted to full time employment, because fresh talent that is eager to work hard and learn on the job benefits your bottom line.” Because Mintor enables students and graduates to do internships and part-time work while they are learning it allows them to get the experience they will need to be employed full-time when they graduate, and it alleviates skills shortages by letting employers identify young people for whom they can develop the skills to bridge those gaps. Leànne believes that “if businesses would spend only 1% of their HR overhead on interns, they could employ 1 youth for every 10 to 20 employees and thereby our current economy would play its part to radically reduce unemployment in SA.”
If these startups get the recognition that they deserve for developing these solutions to assist jobseekers to gain the visibility, skills and experience they need to find jobs, and to help companies to access untapped pools of talent to find the skilled workers that they need to improve their performance, the chances of these startups getting the backing of angel investors and VCs to further develop their platforms will be improved, and therefore their impact on the South African unemployment rate will be increased.