During the just concluded Youth Connekt Africa Summit, in Kigali, Guillaume Habarugira, a Rwandan banker based in Vienna, Austria, launched a unique website, which he says is aimed at helping people make their business dreams become reality.
This responsive “adaptable to mobile” homepage with minimal features, YouthWorks.Africa, he told Sunday Times, gives the opportunity to register and post one’s business dream or project.
“The software aided collaboration features will be made available with the release of our iOS and Android Apps towards the middle of the fourth Quarter of 2017. The App will feed you with relevant information and best practices in the sector of your business idea.”
“Tell us your dream business, or job, and we make it happen,” he said, is his simple message to potential users of www.YouthWorks.Africa.
“We make it happen by matching registered persons with other identified and same-minded users so that they collaborate on the business plan for their idea. And that is not all; for advanced collaboration projects or business plans, the owners will then be invited to apply for funding through their given contacts details,” he said, explaining how it works.
Generally, their users have two related and complementary interests: either to work in a given industry passionate to them; or secondly, to launch a new one or improve an existing business in a given industry. For both, he said, there are simplified registration processes similar to those of LinkedIn, Facebook and any other.
“Our aim is in ensuring standard business trust within users’ network, thus we ask your identity being confirmed by your contacts, but also with any other available standard processes like sms.”
The homepage started operating on July 19 and urges people to “log-in and state your industry interest, or start your dream business challenge, and as an early adopter get the chance to have personalized support through our teams, on what you need to do to make your plans come true.”
They tender to all requests, he said, but as soon as the Android and iOS apps are alive, then anyone will be able to actually start collaborating with matching partners even more easily. “We guarantee the early adopter personalized continued support for the next year.”
Shedding light on what inspired this idea, Habarugira said that life lessons get us thinking and wanting to do things differently while helping others and that was no different for YouthWorks.Africa.
‘This, coupled with an inspiring vision and leadership of Rwanda, we had a recipe for something quite innovative.”
After spending the last two years struggling to launch other companies “in our portfolio, especially due to the difficulty of finding matching business partners, our team in the Diaspora one day sat at a coffee shop in Vienna and went over the struggle we all went through to find each another.”
From there, he said, they started conjecturing about how good it would be if everyone in the world, especially in Africa, could find matching business partners easily, “and so YouthWorks.Africa was born.”
His core team now also includes Ludwig Meyer and Michael Dell. Meyer is an Austrian national working in the software development industry and is the CEO of Alysis GmbH, a Software Development Company focused on human centric development, and also develops e-governance tools, among others.
Dell, another Austrian, is a professional of innovation management and is the CEO of Ratio Strategy and Innovation Consulting GmbH, Vienna, the chief disruptor at Warp Innovation (Palo Alto, Vienna), and a Fellow of the International Society for Professional Innovation management (ISPIM).
Brain Gain for Africa
Asked if his idea has been tested and succeeded elsewhere, Habarugira explained that the concept of a platform bringing together a potential co-founder, or co-investor and facilitating their collaboration is not new.
“The accelerator and incubator seek to do that, and online business planning tools are also readily available. But all of these tools are rather designed for a certain group of persons and are hardly a mainstream (for everyone) tool, and they certainly don’t focus on the African context.”
However, he noted, YouthWorks.Africa is innovative in that it creates a tool that is available on the go (mobile), is for everyone to use “as local languages like Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Hausa, and Arabic will be added too” but will also cater for the Diaspora, local businesses and government bodies.
“YouthWorks.Africa focuses on making the concept of Brain Gain for Africa easily alive through technology,” he said alluding to efforts by some of the continent's elite who are continuously turning their backs on the West and taking their talents back home.
The movement of skilled workers internationally represents brain gain for the countries that reap their skills and experience and brain drain for their countries of origin.
Using the service is totally free of charge for individual users today, Habarugira said, “and we hope to maintain” it like this in the future.
“We are focused on giving a value adding service for the users first, and build a strong community that innovates and contribute to the transformation of the African economies.”
“It is free by choice for individual users. Like any internet company, we have operational costs, which we can cover later on through other means like data mining, ads sales and so on, or even investing in some of the innovative ventures on the Platform, but not necessarily through our YouthWorks.Africa’s individual users.”
According to Habarugira, people who with projects that are not profit driven can also use the service to connect with likeminded people to get their projects up and running.
The platform matches people based on their passions and dreams of any business they can do, be it profit oriented “or altruistic,” he said.
“We strongly recommend having sustainability criteria in all the projects or challenges, to ensure continuity and also provide the best chances for funding.”