Akwajobs is one year old today. To understand what it is, its achievements and challenges faced up until now, Afro Hustler (AH) met with one of the co-founders, Mr. Otto B. Isong in Buea to throw more light on what the platform is all about.
AH: Please tell us a little about you…
Otto: I’m Otto B. Isong living in Buea, born in the 80s in Lobe, Ndian Division of South West of Cameroon. I studied accounting in UB, then did a lot of self-study in product design, marketing and strategy. I’ve been in the tech space since 2012.
AH: What’s akwajobs, when was it found and why is it important?
Otto: Akwajobs is a job vacancy and internship publishing website that provides information on available internships and job vacancies in Cameroon. We started on the 1st of August 2015. We think we’re important in that in addition to providing information, we also provide pertinent assistance for job seekers. Some of this assistance is free, some paid.
AH: There are so many job sites in Cameroon, from jumia jobs (formerly everjobs), doualajobs, jobinfocamer etc and the multitudes of classifieds, what motivated you to get into a very crowded market?
Otto: My friend and co-founder, Eugenie Ebenye was in need of a job. Then I couldn’t give her a job but I thought I could invest in her, given that she’s smart and her background is in HR. So we talked about it and together we started a job site, akwajobs.
AH: What is the difference between a site like akwajobs.com and njorku.com?
Otto: njorku.com is a search engine (like google.com) for job sites like akwajobs.com. Whereas akwajobs.com is more like your blog or cnn.com, publishing content for free to the world and making it such that applicants can apply for these jobs and employers can manage these applications through its application management software.
AH: The first question that comes to mind the moment someone discovers the site is why the name akwajobs?
Otto: Akwa? A neighbourhood in Douala. Eugenie is from Douala.
AH: Akwajobs is a year old, have you met your expectations so far?
Otto: We didn’t have much expectations when we started. I was to put in money and mentor Eugenie while she ran the operations. But along the line she got a job with Razel and I had to continue with the operations.
AH: What have been your greatest challenges?
Otto: Our greatest challenge has been fake jobs. Some people who don’t have companies post jobs and claim to be middlemen for companies. Whereas they’re scammers collecting money from innocent job seekers. We’ve had a few job seekers report such incidence to us. Currently, no job is published directly by a third party. We need to check and authenticate the jobs. These simple rules have curbed the number of fake jobs on akwajobs to zero as at now.
AH: We’ve learned that very few of these job sites are sustainable, can akwajobs.com guarantee its users sustainability?
Otto: Oh yeah! We’re here for the long haul.
AH: What’s the estimate of the number of job seekers who are gainfully employed as a result of akwajobs?
Otto: We can’t have an exact number, but we estimate over 400 so far. You know most people don’t come back to say thank you once they have their fill. J
AH: What do you have in store for the hundreds of thousands that use akwajobs.com?
Otto: We have been doing some pretty good tests with some services that are meant to give job seekers an upperhand. Those who have used these services have been very happy with results. All of them have been very happy. Wishing they had had something of that sort early on in their careers. So we’re looking at serving more people.
AH: akwajobs.com is 1 year old, what can you say about the employment space in Cameroon?
Otto: Some professions are packed with professionals whereas others lack the necessary manpower. Accounting and finance is one of those that have more than the required number of them. Whereas software development is falling short to meeting the demands of employers. Also, digital marketing, community management and even sales are all falling short of meeting the demand.
Otto: Looking at all the data we have, it is evident that our schools aren’t preparing people for what the job market requires. Three years from now, what will be the jobs in high demand? That answer will depend on what the industry wants, however, our educational system doesn’t ask such questions or if the leaders do, the followup to them aren’t the best.
AH: Can you explain some of the challenges that an average Cameroonian will face when trying to secure a decent job?
Otto: Skills. Skills. Skills. The average Cameroonian isn’t very skilful at practical things. We have those who have lots of certificates, yet they can’t do the necessary practical work expected of them. But because they have these certificates, they think they’re employable. People should focus on getting the required skills that will make them employable. Anything short of that is a waste of time.
Also, most job seekers don’t present themselves well. There are those that are educated and skilful but they don’t even know what they should be applying for and how to go about their job search.
AH: What do you think are some of the reasons why it is challenging for most Cameroonians to secure jobs?
Otto: The first thing is information availability. Most people aren’t informed of the jobs available countrywide.
Also, most small and medium sized enterprises don’t have any formal process of recruiting. As such it makes it hard for them to plan their manpower in such a way that it can be beneficial to them and the community. I think as a nation, we still have a long way to go in organizing how we attract and retain skilled workers.
AH: Are there companies which face challenges in getting qualified personnel? If yes, why?
Otto: Oh yes, there are. We know of a few. We’ve not yet had a full understanding on the part of the employers, so we can’t really comment on that.
AH: Any advice to the unemployed Cameroonian youth?
Otto: For those still in school, they should do as much internship as possible and do their best to get the right skills for their dream jobs.
For those already in the job market but are yet to have a job, the only thing I can say is that they should keep searching. And they shouldn’t limit their search online. Online platforms do not surface up to 5% of the jobs available in this country. So I think they should hit the streets. If there is a need, they should volunteer and do internships to gain some working experience. It is primordial.
AH: What about those who are already employed? Any advice to them?
Otto: No matter how skilled you are, if your job can be defined into a system, a process, sooner or later a computer can do it. So, the best insurance to have is to keep learning, become much more creative and learn to use your empathy in service. Those are the only things that will ensure you will have a job in 2035 when Cameroon must have emerged.
AH: Anything for employers?
Otto: We need more of them to use our platform to publish jobs. Interestingly, it is entirely free for them. Sometimes, we can assist them in a lot more when necessary.
AH: Any last words?
Otto: Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to share our story with the world, we very much appreciate it and hope your blog grows from strength to strength. You guys are doing a wonderful job.