The NYU-Accra-mPawa-AbuDhabi Connection

MEST, Wednesday September 25th 2013

mPawa, currently operating in Ghana and Kenya is one of 13 start-ups from the MEST Incubator;  they provide a mobile job matching app for Africa's blue-collar recruitment sector. The team recently welcomed a new intern- Zhao Julia Xu from Abu Dhabi! I sat with Julia to find out a little bit more about her interests: Why Africa/Ghana, why tech? and why mPawa? Hopefully this inspires you especially about the endless list opportunities and potential ahead for the continent. Enjoy!

AB: Can you briefly tell me about your background?

ZJX: I am a Chinese-American in my third year at New York University Abu Dhabi. I am majoring in economics but I have a passion for sociology, development, programming, and music. I am a classical violinist and my favorite tennis player is Marion Bartoli. I deeply admire Ellen Johnson Sirleaf because I see in her much of the toughness and energy of my mother, and Malcolm X for his visionary leadership.

AB: Why Ghana?

ZJX: I wanted to immerse myself in a totally different world perspective, especially in a developing country. Ghana is particularly attractive since the country is stable, middle-income, and is poised for opportunity. I want to make a global impact on my future work and Ghana can be one of those important linkages. The history is fascinating, the culture rich, and the entrepreneurs passionate, precisely the sort of study abroad atmosphere I want to absorb.

AB: Why mPawa? how does mPawa fit in your story?

ZJX: My internship at mPawa is offering me the opportunity as a front-end programmer to solidify better design and UI experiences on the mPawa platform. I want to have some exposure with business and product development and learn more about the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Accra. I believe firmly in mPawa's model as being one of the most promising due to localized success and an ambitious scaling model. They are fulfilling an important and profitable service that is currently done less efficiently, and adds real value in the economy.

AB: Any thoughts on the role of tech in the blue color sector within Africa and other developing economies that mPawa is targeting?

ZJX: I am both optimistic but realistic about the uses of tech. Although there is definite room for expansion, there will no doubt be tremendous inertial struggles. Since technological literacy is not as perforated here as it is in other places, there may be tough marketing and usability problems. Nevertheless, change should come slowly and there is much room for creativity.

AB: Lessons learned so far and final thoughts?

ZJX: Many lessons learned so far - where do I begin? I have learned that each startup ecosystem is unique, and has its own strengths and weaknesses, and for each entrepreneur it is a trial and error process.

There is so much opportunity for growth in areas that are completely saturated by multinationals in developed countries. It is always amazing to be around people with such unique life experiences and see them apply that into an innovative business in a relatively risk-averse culture. I am constantly inspired and challenged by the creativity and energy of everyone around me. It is truly admirable to see everyone hustling the best they can to add some more income in such creative passionate channels.

More about mPawa

mPawa at DEMO Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.

mPawa is a job matching service developed by Innokiq. mPawa supports the posting of jobs and the onwards notification to blue collar workers in Africa. The overall idea is to bridge the gap that exists in the current blue collar recruitment space; i.e. having a more centralized system for blue collar workers and enabling employers easily reach them.

mPawa is free for workers. By registering online or via SMS, workers are good to go to receive job notifications whenever prospective employers require the workers' skill sets. mPawa on twitter: @mPawa_Africa

Interested in interning with a MEST Incubator CompanyContact