#ZimStartup: One on One with Made In Africa Group Founder

Made in Africa Group is a tech start up formed by Ogylive Tatendaishe Makova with the mandate to see Zimbabweans and other Africans get paid for their skills. He is one of the lucky 17 Zimbabwean beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Programme. 

While some cry foul over the brain drain, the cries even get louder from those unemployed.

It is indeed true that it’s difficult to get a job nowadays in Zimbabwe considering the high unemployment rate and the rocky economic environment.

But it is out of lack of knowledge displayed by Zimbabweans of not knowing that their talents can earn them extra income.

There are many global opportunities out there which can help Zimbabweans get extra income.

According to Makova, freelancers can register for free unlike other outsourcing platforms that charge subscription fees. As a teething start up that’s just a year old, they get a commission of mere 8 percent commission from the linking the clients to freelancers.

Our Assistant editor Kudakwashe Pembere caught up with Ogylive and below is the one-on-one interview.

Kudakwashe Pembere: Who is Ogylive Makova?

Ogylive Makova: My name is Ogylive Makova and I come from Bikita. I did my primary education at Chikwingizha in Gweru then my A Level at Goromonzi High School.
And after that I went to great Zimbabwe University where I was elected a student leader over there. I became president of the Student Union back in 2008 but things were tense back in those days and unfortunately we left the university. We were given scholarships by the Dutch embassy to study in the Netherlands and in the Netherlands I had to go and start my studies and I graduated with a degree in Business Economics at Maastricht University and a Masters in Finance. And then after that I worked for a think-tank in the Netherlands as an intern. Then I joined rocket internet, the German Start up accelerator company as a business development consultant for East and Southern Africa and our headquarters were in Berlin so I had to come over here to Zimbabwe to help launch Lamudi. It was called Jumia House. And whilst I was working there, I was also working sometimes in Kenya and Tanzania as a business development consultant in those countries so it was pretty much venture development. Then after working for one year, I went back to Netherlands I joined another start-up as well as market research leader in the Netherlands in Rotterdam , it is called Discovered. Whilst I was working there I decided the idea of Made In Africa. I was brainstorming all that time while I was there. But the main reason why I went back there was also my girlfriend she is Dutch the distance was affecting and I said let me go back but when you want to start a start-up, in Africa, there are more opportunities here especially in e-commerce and all that. So I had to come back here so I came back here three weeks ago.

KP: What inspired you to establish your start-up?

OM: So when I was working for rocket internet there was a market research report commissioned by Rocket Internet to do market research on e-commerce in Zambia and so what they wanted they commissioned it to one of the biggest management consultancy McKenzie but you know their offices are not in here in Africa, they only have offices in Kenya and South Africa in Johannesburg so I said OK they are commissioning to do a report in Zambia but these people are not in located locally and later on that company had to go and hire a local consultant to do the job on their behalf you see. So I said how about forming something in which independent consultants based in a country can be approached directly rather than through someone. So this is somewhere where I got inspiration from as in what if something has a direct link that consultants can really get a nice income out of that and also the client he doesn’t have to pay crazy amounts because if you hire those clients they are probably ten times expensive whilst the result is the same even better because you know the local market and customs as well so your research will even be better. So this is where I got the inspiration. And also whilst I was over there, the start-up which I was working for in the Netherlands, sometimes they would need market research or we needed a copywriter or our social media expert to do our adverts on Facebook and LinkedIn and always used to use other platforms such as Appwork.com, or freelancer.com. whilst we were using that we noticed this thing really working but you see that on those platforms there may be less than 0, 5% of Africans, the rest of Afrcans are not recognised on the platform and they would face tough competition from guys in India and all the other countries if they want to register on those platforms. Most of the jobs are western and people just have to do those western companies getting cheap labour. But for me I said, how about making something similar which is crucial for the local market because for us we are not only aiming to do international projects but also locally. For example if someone wants a tech blogger, you could write for wherever that company could be. And you can have those opportunities, a graphic designer can be based in Harare but somebody in Bulawayo may need your services and you are also able to do that. So this is where I got the inspiration from that this is possible and with the internet penetration right now it’s growing in Africa and it’s not going to stop so, so we also thought the timing is also good. And we are are glad that the data bundles and the Econet thing its back that will even make the platform better because we can get free wifi so it encourages people to get online. The costs for getting online are getting cheaper its good timing.

Made in Africa Group website screenshot

KP: When did you establish this start-up?

OM: So we started in April last year and we developed a system which we thought was OK, nice and all that but later on we figured out that there was a lot of bugs and the flowing was not really good and we had to destroy and start all over again and we built a new platform that we have right now. The one we have ensures that a client can register easily and a freelancer consultant can register easily. We have also incorporated what is called Escrow payment system into the system. This is important and we hope its going to be a game changer because when there is a project to be done, a client pays, makes the payment to show commitment that he really wants the project to be done. The payment is also released when various milestones or the project has successfully been completed. That way we are kind of creating trust between the client and the freelancer to the extent that if you do a job for someone and later on for you to say give me my money you know how tough it is sometimes. So this one we are like a third party who make things flow easily and also this instils trust. You put more effort in the project and your payment will not be released until the project is completed successfully.

KP: How does one sign up on your platform?

OM: So for this one, as a freelancer how it works, you just have to sign up on our platform www.madeitinafrica.com. The sign up process is very easy. Its straight forward and there is also social log in so you can also sign up using your Facebook or LinkedIn. Once you register…but your profile will not be visible until its complete. So what you have to do you are going to be asked about your profession, then you can put a title for example Web Developer or social media expert or business consultant. Then you fill in the number of years in experience and a little profile that you write and also you can upload images of portfolio of work that you have done before. This is also good because people who come to your profile need a point of reference they can say oh this guy did this. So its also good to sell yourself. After you are registered on the platform and your profile is complete, when looking for a job, for you to be found its either a client will search through the jobs, the freelancers who are available and they choose which do they think suits well with their needs and then they invite them. Or the other way, jobs will be posted as well so you can bid like this job for example its advertising we want tax and accounting end of year tax and accounting its like a small and medium enterprise which needs people. So when you register you also have to put categories of jobs lets say tax and accounting, copywriting, market research and all those. So when your job is presented then you automatically receive an email that says this job matches with your skills. So you’ll be alerted that there is a new job. Its up to you to apply or not. So once you see that this job is available, you can bid. If its lets say $500 you can say $300, or $600 and it depends on the client on what he is looking at to say does he want the lowest bidder or someone with better experience who looks better. So that is how you can bid on the project. And then you can have private messages with the client and exchanging information. But attachments can only be exchanged…so once you bid and your bid is accepted then you are going in our system which refers the client to the Paypal gateway  allowing payment to be done with Paypal,  Mastercard, Visa and all the other payments and right now we are also working into incorporating what is called Direct Pay Online which is for African online payments allowing people with MPESA, Bharti Airtel, Orange, MTN, Mobile Wallet, all those to be incorporated so that somebody with mobile money can transfer and make payments rather than for us just to say credit and debit cards. So unfortunately for that one, Direct Pay it has a lot of companies involved, all big telecom companies such as Safaricom , MTN, Airtel, Orange, those ones. But unfortunately there isn’t any Zimbabwean company on those payment systems probably they do not have an API or something but that’s the challenge. For Zimbabwe we are also working with Ecocash to get their API but I hear it’s difficult to get to incorporate into other payment systems for somebody to do it online. It opens what is called a workspace. For payment right now we have a trust account with Ecobank which is a Pan African bank. So the advantage is that’s it’s very easy to do transactions in Africa. A project from Zambia to you is made easier as well in terms of payment.

KP: Which countries does your startup have presence in?

OM: Right now we are going to start with Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Those are the countries we are starting with. Then after that we are planning to go into South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria but for the first year those are the four countries we want to deal with. So we are going to do that. The funny thing is in Zambia there is over 40 percent of interest is coming from Zambians they are registering every day and from Zimbabwe we could say its 30 percent whilst in Malawi and Botswana the rest of the people 15-15 percent. So the freelancers are really excited and we are also engaging right now we are part of the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition. So this group, is a network of over 250 global companies. The aim of this group is for them to lobby to encourage what is called impact sourcing in which big technology companies right now can outsource their non-core activities because they figured out that most of the time we as Africans, we are just consumers of this technology companies products but in terms of jobs there is nothing which is coming back to us. For example right now, you could work from here, you could be a virtual assistant for Google, for Microsoft whilst you are in Zimbabwe, you don’t need to be in the United States. So those are some of the jobs they are trying to link us to. For Google there is what is called G Suit, they are trying to promote. So it’s better for google to have sales reps local people oin those countries rather than to try to have somebody in the UK at the Dublin Offices to try to do the marketing for all that. So that is what this organisation is trying to do. So for that there is a couple of jobs in which they want to post on the platform so we are encouraging a people to register on the platform because lot of international jobs will be posted. This plan started in 2016 when we were working on it. But since Trump is saying first is America and all that. The companies may be a little more intimidated to outsource those jobs you know the rhetoric and all that. But it’s a good platform for us to get jobs because with internet penetration you can do anything, a lot of jobs from anywhere so it’s a good initative which is going to supply us with a couple of jobs as well to us. So that’s another source of job supply.

KP: How will this platform help Zimbabweans?

OM: This is actually a good platform for the young Zimbabweans, and the professionals that if they come on the platform, as I stated earlier that the internet penetration is growing this is a good platform that it could have jobs for them. For example you could be a professional and you are working all day and it doesn’t mean your skills will disappear after you finish working hours. So if you joining the platform, you could earn some extra income for people who want to hire you fot your skills. So its an extra revenue stream for you. It’s also good for recent graduates for them if skilled. For example when you are starting up you might not have some skills but there are also jobs which are like data entry, virtual assistant with the GISC they will be virtual assistants needed, so those kind of jobs they can train you a little bit to make it easier for you. You could go under some webinars to be trained on how to interact with customer, they can teach you easily they can teach you to at least earn some money as a recent graduate. There are a lot of jobs. There is analytics to see how you performed. But there are jobs which need seniors. What is important for locals who are professionals this is big opportunity for them to save clients’ money rather than getting served by foreign companies with little or no knowledge about the market who might poorly do the job.
Its going to empower locals because a local person, will do the market research for you because they know the market better and customs. This platform shall give Zimbabweans online presence and international exposure.
Its equal opportunities especially for consultancy jobs a lot of them you get them through your networks and classes. But if you are not in those networks and you are good at a certain skill, you won’t get a chance to do that. So this platform we hope clients will choose people based on meritocracy. And not based on racial, class and gender discrimination. So that’s something important. That is what we like about this platform. There are bottom up solutions that is created not top-down so that local can do something and this involves them in decision making and whatever you are going to do, a lot of people are involved.

KP: Tell us about the money you got from the Tony Elumelu Foundation. How much did you receive?

OM: It has reflected yet in my account hahaha but I hope very soon it’s going to. The initial amount they will give you is $5000 then after some period, we’ll get some mentorship in which those industry professionals are going to help me with corporate advice on how best to approach different clients if you are in early client recruitment in various African countries. So that’s good. They are going to give us an additional $5000 and that $5000, this one the first $5000 it doesn’t have any conditions but the other $5000 is a seed fund. Its seed money that the Tony Elumelu Foundation will say OK we are giving you then we can negotiate probably they will say they need 4 percent of Made in Africa to become involved in the long run. So the other $5 000 will be a seed. So in total it will be $10 000.

KP: How do you feel getting the fat $10K?

OM: Im very happy to get this money because you know people always think all the funding comes from Europeans, like most of the funding its coming from Europe, from American doors. But this is an initiative by an African. So what makes me even happier is that we are being funded by an African. So this is a challenge for other Africans investors or people who have achieved a lot in business to give back. So it’s only Africans ourselves who can make the continent better. So coming back to do these products is that I believe with the education and experience that I got in Europe I can play a good role rather than to sit there and have a nice 9-5 job and not have any worries about anything. I want to do this because I want to help create jobs. It really feels good. What makes it even sweeter is that it’s coming from an African and it’s going to help us oin our operational costs as well.

KP: Your parting shot…

OM: To young technopreneurs involved in technology, all I want to say is technology is the future. And we have to be part of it. There are so many chances right now that we can get on online platforms. So we should not sit home and expect or probably hoping that the government is going to solve our problems but we are the leaders ourselves who can come up with the solutions. And technology is one of the most effective ways in which we can really give ourselves a good shot at creating a good company and a business. So yah, go for it, follow your dreams, follow your heart and things maybe tough in the beginning but victory belongs to those who persevere. I suppose.

 

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