mPawa: Mobile job matching for blue-collar recruitment in Africa

By Bertil van Vugt on September 3, 2012

On a regular basis we put ventures in the spotlight who have registered on our platform. Today we talk to Ghanaian entrepreneur Maxwell Donkor of mPawa. “We are gradually touching the lives of many and making an impact by helping them easily find jobs and meet their daily responsibilities.”

What problem are you solving with mPawa?

“mPawa is a mobile job matching application developed for blue-collar recruitment in Africa. We leverage the power of mobile technology to quickly connect employers to well qualified job seekers and workers to jobs.

One of the problems mPawa tackles is the unavailability of a central pool of qualified blue-collar workers, even though the opportunity of available jobs comes up every day. We looked at the difficulty of job seekers to find or locate new vacancies quickly and easily. This is usually because of limited resources such as money or time. We reduce total cost involved in searching for new job, since mostly job seekers know of new jobs by word of mouth.

On the employers side, they also spend money and time finding new candidates to fill vacancies and usually run non-targeted advertisements, which yields sometimes less qualified candidates applying.
Lastly, most recruitment services don’t serve this sector of the market and those who do, their applications are usually above the blue-collar sector or its not clearly skewed to focus on the unique issues specific to the sector.”

You say on your venture profile that mPawa is built on a job matching algorithm?

“The unique matching algorithm is a proprietary development built into mPawa. This aids in the automatic matching of job seekers to new job post. Generation of most qualified job seekers and sending them job notification is completely handled by this customized industry standard HR pre-screening procedures built into the software.

It is an intelligent system that takes into consideration job seekers stated and recorded skill, level of experience, and expertise, years of experience and references if any to rate and rank each job seeker. We have built the system in such a way that it intelligently improves its matching processes with every update that a job seeker feeds it as well as information from its successful matches for each job seeker.”

How are you different from other SMS-based job search services like M-Kazi?

“There are some other SMS based job services, but mPawa stands out with its own features and differentiation. First of all, when job seekers interact with mPawa they don’t need Internet access. Job seekers interact with mPawa completely through SMS for registration, updating of their profiles and responding to new job offers. Everything is completely SMS and takes less than 5 minutes to complete a profile creation. The only requirement is a mobile phone with SMS functionality.

Also, mPawa harnesses the power of mobile to web to allow employers to post their jobs through the web, which is easy and these targeted job post is delivered directly to job seekers. This focus-driven initiative is again targeted solely to the less serviced sector of blue-collar workers. Finally mPawa is different because i toffers all of its services to job seekers free of charge.”

You have been part of MEST. What are the most important things you’ve learned there?

“Being at MEST was interesting, challenging and fun. The environment is a real international and standardized one. My greatest take away from MEST is the high standards that are maintained yet in a fun way. Through the MEST training I learnt to meet standards to be able to run a business in globally competitive environment and have focus on succeeding. I equally learnt that I couldn’t be fully prepared for the challenges and opportunities that come my way. I can however take advantage of these opportunities and over the challenges when I apply myself to work hard and constantly train myself in pursuit of the successes I desire.

One more is the depth of information and motivation I have been exposed to by some software industry CEOs with international businesses who I learn and is able to ask about their life experiences to get to learn fast from their successes, mistakes and experiences. This was made possible through the guest lecture series organized by MEST every quarter of the year.”

Maxwell Donkor shows how mPawa works to potential customers.

How are you going to make money?

“mPawa’s sole paying clients are the employers who patronize mPawa services by posting jobs on the system and reaching qualified applicants. Our current pricing strategy is to charge per every successful match made and once an employer post a higher quantity of jobs to be filed we offer high discounts.

Other revenue streams that mPawa is considering include pre screening charges and special post which will increase the potential of successful match being made at first time. Also mPawa is looking at gathering very relevant human resource knowledge in the industry and this will go further to help create national and labor policies specific to the blue-collar workers.”

What successes has Mpawa booked so far? 

“Currently, after a month of full operation and starting up with our beta version, mPawa has a database of about 2,000 job seekers who have expertise ranging from Carpenters, masons, welders, steel benders, tile layers, house helps, sales personnel, field workers to security personnel. We have also successfully close 4 employer deals that are using mPawa and have received 10 job post in the last month with 5 successful placements.

Furthermore, even in our very early stage we have secured partnership with a very major player in the recruitment space in Ghana and Africa to upscale mPawa for their operations mainly white collar. This shows a clear validation in the technology being developed for the African market.”

What are your biggest challenges at this moment?

“A major challenge faced by mPawa has to do with change management. People of our client base are used to a certain way of culture and bringing such a revolutionary application will take time to be grasped by the masses. This put a strain on our marketing procedures and processes and branding.

As a startup, revenue collation is equally a major challenge.  There are bank transactions, cash payment and mobile banking, and when it comes to revenue collection, Africa’s startups have difficulty since people find it difficult to release money for value provided. In this regard, mPawa considers pre-payment which go a long way to put the company in goo standing and motivated to service our clients much faster and effectively.”

Tell us a bit more about your background and that of your team?

“I hold a Higher National Diploma (HND) in computer science and an Oracle Database Professional certificate. Prior to joining MEST and subsequent creation of mPawa I was an IT Executive of Digitronix Systems Limited and the same at the Electoral Commission of Ghana before that. I also equally run Maxi Systems and General Merchants as the founder and Manager.

Currently I fully manage mPawa with support from the Meltwater Foundation Advisory Board. The mPawa team is made up of two people with IT background before joining MEST and the other two with Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering respectively. We all graduated from the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology and founded mPawa with the desire to solve some of Africa human problems through software.”

What is the mPawa team exited about at the moment?

“What we are most excited about at this moment with mPawa is the fact that, we are gradually touching the lives of many and making an impact by helping them easily find jobs and meet their daily responsibilities to their respective families.

As a team, Innokiq that is our company name, we believe mPawa is about to redefine the recruitment landscape, especially with regards to blue-collar recruitment. mPawa we break boundaries and help blue-collar workers have an effective means of getting access to more jobs easily and cost effectively.”

Find more information on mPawa on their VC4Africa venture page.

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