African student’s startup leads to Google job


Kenyan entrepreneur who developed a mobile community to create employment opportunities has landed a job at Google Africa as a result.Shikoh Gitau is a PhD graduate who received her latest degree from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa last month.

However, her experience in struggling to fund work led to her creating Ummeli, which connects skilled workers with prospective employers.Also accessible through the Vodacom website, users can upload their CVs via mobile devices.

“The idea is to give people from particularly poor areas with limited access to computers the opportunity to get jobs with cell phones,” said Gitau.The Ummeli system has 150,000 users, with a current rate of 18 per cent employment and 10 per cent interview guarantees.Launched in South Africa, Ummeli aids educated people looking for work in a society with high unemployment rates.

What started as a research project turned into a key solution in elevating her own position of making an impact on the continent, as well as providing a platform for others.“I had experienced and seen so much poverty, and I knew deep inside me that I wanted to do something about it. I looked at various institutions for a graduate programme that would offer me both the social and the technology angles,” she said.Gitau aims to roll out the solution to other African countries and has also secured collaboration with the UCT staff at the Information and Communication Technologies Development Centre (ICT4D).

Google Africa had appointed Gitau as an employee of the User Experience Group in London and Zurich, however she requested a position in Africa“Although I was initially hired for a position based in London, and then Zurich, I requested to be sent back home because I believe this is where I could have the most impact,” she said.


Now based in Nairobi, Kenya, the mobile entrepreneur is exploring Google designs to suit Africans.

The South African-based Praekfelt Foundation, established by IT multi-millionaire Gustav Praekfelt, is working on Ummeli to upscale its performance.


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