Nigerian Startup Inspired By Jobless Youth

Nigerian Startup Inspired By Jobless Youth

When Ayodeji Adewunmi’s university professors went on strike, he launched Jobberman, a job recruitment business, but he had to overcome challenges that many aspiring entrepreneurs find daunting in Africa’s second-largest economy.

Nigeria is considered one of the world’s most corrupt countries and cronyism there is rampant, according to a report in Fox News. Adewunmi had no cash, no contacts and little hope of finding either.

Starting a medium-sized or large business without the help of a powerful patron can border on impossible, especially in dominant sectors like oil and gas, Adewunmi said.

He turned to the Internet because he said it “has little or nothing to do with the establishment.”

With 37.5 percent of Nigerians under 25 out of work, a  job-finder website had a ready-made market.

World Bank has documented the continued rise of youth unemployment despite economic reforms since the end of Nigeria’s military rule in 1999.

The economy has grown, but poverty is worse, according to official statistics. The likely culprit is excessive reliance on Africa’s largest oil sector, which generates few jobs, according to the Fox News report.

Analysts say youth unemployment in Nigeria is a potential time bomb carrying the risk of youths turning to crime or extremist movements if they view their economic situation as hopeless.

Tomi Orunmuyi, a 26-year-old who studied electrical engineering at the University of Ilorin in central Nigeria, said in the report the university had no career services department and offered no opportunities to meet potential employers.

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Beyond the need for a job-finder service, Adewunmi had something else going for him – Nigeria has seen fast Internet access growth thanks to an explosion in the number of mobile phones.

Six months after the August 2009 launch, a Nigerian investor reached out. Later, Tiger Global Management, a large U.S.-based hedge fund that had been an early investor in  Facebook and LinkedIn, got in touch.

Adewunmi believes both employers and trained Nigerian workers are desperate for a trusted platform where they can connect. He seeks to earn revenue through advertising as well as a recently introduced paywall.

Employers pay nothing to post a job, but to see the full details of a listing, applicants must pay 500 naira ($3) per month.

People who have declined to use the site due to the paywall, Orunmuyi. It’s a risky strategy in a country where suspicions of fraud, including online, are justifiably high, he said in the report.

But people will continue using Jobberman, despite the paywall, he said, “they don’t have any other option.”