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Afringa: bringing transparency to informal labour markets in Africa

How to match supply and demand in informal job markets? Afringa decided to take on that challenge. Their solution: a SaaS HR platform replacing cover letters by “cover videos”.

When looking for a new employee, or a new job, most of us would turn online. Job boards, recruitment websites and social networks such as LinkedIn have become a vital part of modern-day jobhunting and recruiting. But what if your internet access is limited, or the labour market is less developed as it is in the Western world?



Huge informal labour market

HR-Saas platform Afringa founder Victor Thien
HR-Saas platform Afringa founder Victor Thien

In many African countries and cities, a lot of human potential is wasted because the supply and demand of skilled labour have no way of connecting to one another. One research has stated that, on a total population of 1,2 billion people, 500 million have formal employment, whereas 180 million people work in informal jobs. This means that well over 1/3rd of jobs are found in the informal labour market.

Finding the match between work and employee is hard, especially in the informal markets. Employers have difficulty reaching potential candidates and have no way of ensuring the applicant meets the criteria. The candidate, on the other hand, has to deal with a significant imbalance in power and often does not know which criteria to meet, for jobs they cannot find, and getting rejected for reasons they never hear about.


A farewell to cover letters

Victor Thien decided that something had to be done. Thien explains the vision behind Afringa:  “I founded the Afringa online employment platform with the vision and mission to help young jobseekers across African countries to find job opportunities and apply to them more easily. On the other hand, the recruiting process should be more simple and easy for local and international companies hiring in African countries.”

One of the most notable characteristics of Afringa is that the platform has no room for cover letters. Instead, Afringa relies heavily on the cover videos candidates can upload to the platform. On a content where literacy is only 70% (compared to the worlds’ average of 90%), this is a huge step. It empowers job seekers, while opening a whole new pool of potential employees for employers.

Thien: “Job seekers can record a short video of themselves introducing their motivation, personality and willingness to learn.”


Cover videos save time

A potential downside of this approach is that it takes the ability to quickly scan, or “laterally read” the cover letters. According to Thien, however, this is not an issue. Quite the opposite: “Companies, in turn, don’t have to go through 1000 job applications and attachments anymore because only the candidates that are really serious about the job are willing to record the video. As a result, the number of job applications and time spent on reviewing applications has been significantly reduced for companies.”


Good business

While the method of applying is radically different, the business model of Afringa is a familiar one. Candidates can use the platform without any subscription, or fees. Anyone with an email-address can create a profile and start applying.

The revenues Afringa generates come from employers, who pay for job advertisements and the recruiting services provided by the platform. Employers post a video advertisement and receive two videos from applicants, one in which they introduce themselves and their motivation, much as in a cover letter. In the other video which they work on a given case, showing their skills and capacities much better than any resume could do.


Tough times stimulating progress

Afringa was founded in 2018.  The company was bootstrapped at first, but it didn’t take long until a few business angels saw the potential of the SaaS HR Platform being developed.  Things were looking bright, with some experts saying that the video based HR-SaaS has a better shot at conquering Africa than LinkedIn.

However, a black swan appeared: the corona pandemic. With the covid-scare and lockdowns, Afringa saw a huge decline in activity on the platform. Thien: “New employments have gone down with our clients and hence sales has been a challenge over the past months.”

Instead of mourning the opportunities lost, Afringa decided to use the relative rest to further develop the platform. Thien: “As an entrepreneur, it’s important to be able to adapt to changing circumstances as well as to change course quickly.” He continues to explain that the corona-crisis has only served to focus even more on the clients and users, “listening for customer feedback as they had to adapt to changing circumstances, too.”

Soon, the Afringa Academy was released: “Through the Afringa academy we are supporting young girls and boys to get an understanding for basic job skill requirements such as ‘How to apply for a job’,’CV and interview preparation’ as well as basic digital skills such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc. Content is being taught via videos as well as a three-month course.”


Better times coming soon

Despite the current turmoil, Thien is confident about the future: “Given the huge demand in employment and education across the African continent, we are looking at a bright future and are absolutely positive about continues progress towards supporting even more African job seekers to find and connect with great job opportunities.”

Does that mean he never experiences any stress? “Meditation helps us a lot to address stress and anxiety.”


Staying ahead of the competition

While the introduction of video technology into recruiting is new, others could implement the same:” Competitors have not yet implemented video technology. We assume they will soon follow though”.

That is why the HR SaaS-platform is investing heavily in artificial intelligence: “We are currently working on putting artificial intelligence and machine learning APIs on top of our already proven recruiting engine.”

This would add value to the product, as employers would only be presented with  “a preselection of the most suitable job candidates”.

Development is not only virtual, though. Recently, Afringa has made its first step away from the cloud, opening an office in Nairobi (Kenya) where the needs of both clients and members are catered for.

The future looks good for Afringa. Despite, or maybe even thanks to, the downturn due to covid-19, this SaaS-platform continues to grow and develop. We recommend keeping an eye on this SaaS, which could be singlehandedly overthrowing everything we thought we knew about recruiting.

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