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Beyond Boundaries: Ethiopia-Headquartered Gebeya Is Making Its Way To Dubai With A Renewed Sense Of Purpose In a world where virtual hiring has become something of a norm, and online talent hiring options are plenty, Gebeya Dubai sets itself apart with the promise of solely offering African tech talents that are vetted for.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed Edited by Aby Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Amadou Daffe, co-founder, Gebeya

"With cities like Cape Town, Nairobi, Lagos, Accra, Cairo, Dakar, and Addis Ababa full of rising tech stars, how was it that the second-largest continent on Earth remained overlooked?" According to Amadou Daffe, this was the conundrum that befuddled him in 2016 and led him to co-found Gebeya, an Ethiopia-headquartered global talent marketplace solely focused on African tech professionals. "The initial spark for Gebeya thus came from seeing Africa's enormous tech talent pool contrasted with the high global demand for skills," Daffe recalls. "When my co-founder Hiruy Amanuel and I first started Gebeya, our focus was primarily on building capacity through upskilling, as many software developers as possible in Africa. Since then, we have worked with the likes of Microsoft, Safaricom, Amazon Web Services, and more to develop and implement upskilling programs, thereby empowering thousands of developers across Africa."

Perhaps one of the most large-scale projects that Gebeya has undertaken with the aforementioned tech giants is the one with Microsoft. Indeed, in June 2020, through an agreement signed wit the US-headquartered multinational technology corporation, Gebeya launched an initiative to upskill 300,000 software developers across 10 African countries. "Gebeya eventually evolved into a software as a service (SaaS) marketplace aiming to accelerate the gig economy for Africans everywhere," Daffe continues. "Today, Gebeya is a global platform connecting highly skilled tech talents from Africa directly with opportunities worldwide. Over the past seven years, the company has grown to become deployed in over 30 African countries, and yes, we've had a lot of success. This year we even signed a US$48 million partnership with Mastercard Foundation to launch a social impact project called Mesirat. The program aims to create one million job opportunities for gig workers in Ethiopia over the next five years, offering resources and support to 100 creative business owners."

With teams also based in Kenya, Senegal, and the US, Gebeya has thus been able to cement its position as a SaaS-enabled pan-African talent marketplace. But Daffe's pursuits in creating an equitable ecosystem for African tech entrepreneurs didn't end there. Eventually, his efforts to go beyond Africa found favor in the UAE- Dubai, to be more specific, having found support from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit government entity that supports businesses based in the Emirate. And it was a decision that Daffe says felt like a natural extension of Gebeya's underlying vision. "We now have three goals with our entry into Dubai with support from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce," Daffe declares. "Firstly, our goal is to build a strong talent pool specifically addressing the UAE's needs, and build pipelines to bring in skilled tech professionals from countries all over Africa. Secondly, in parallel, we aim to forge strategic partnerships with those who equally have the future of the tech ecosystem in mind. Thirdly, we aim to contribute to the growth of the UAE's tech sector, and support both innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives."

Source: Gebeya

With the company set to officially launch in the Emirate in December 2023, Daffe unequivocally decided that the platform needed a region-specific identity: namely, Gebeya Dubai. "We created a new domain, dubai., which distinctly separates itself from the main," Daffe explains. "It is thus a centralized platform safeguarding African immigrant workers, and provides vetted talents to Dubai employers. We want to provide a tailored solution to the UAE's tech ecosystem, since thousands of skilled African immigrants enter Dubai looking for a better life for themselves and their families every year."

In a world where virtual hiring has become something of a norm, and online talent hiring options are plenty, Gebeya Dubai sets itself apart with the promise of solely offering African tech talents that are vetted for. "A major advantage we offer employers is pre-screening and pre-vetting talent," Daffe adds. "By handling skills assessments upfront, we save companies considerable time and resources in the hiring process. Once candidates are vetted and added to our talent pool, we use advanced artificial intelligence (AI) matching algorithms to connect companies with candidates with the right skills and expertise. Moreover, our matching process is primarily demand-driven. Our intention is to very carefully analyze and understand the demand from Dubai-based companies, to tailor our recruitment of tech talent in Gebeya Dubai based on this."

Now, the confidence in Daffe's claims stems from how Gebeya Dubai strives to leave no detail out in its screening process. "Our candidate selection process is a rigorous, multi-step process, and designed to ensure that we present the best talent to our clients," the co-founder says. "Candidates go through multiple stages of screening and assessment. We consider factors like educational background, work experience, language proficiency, soft skills, and other capabilities. Our screening process includes technical assessments conducted by experienced tech professionals before joining our talent marketplace. Once confirmed, we ensure the candidate is a strong match for the employer's needs."

Related: UAE-Based Hiring And Networking Platform Pupilar Is On A Mission To Break Biases In The Recruitment Process

But perhaps Gebeya Dubai's strongest differentiating factor lies in Daffe's admission that his team are incredibly well versed in the space they work in. "Yes, we leverage an entire continent's pool of thoroughly vetted tech talents, but we also have a much better understanding of African talent than any other platform in the UAE," the co-founder says. "We are for Africans, run by Africans. We are here to serve and give African tech talent a competitive chance, whereas other matching platforms and job boards cater to a global talent pool."

Amadou Daffe, co-founder, Gebeya. Source: Gebeya

At this point, if you find yourself dubious about the scope of the talent being discussed here, then it is perhaps important to first gain some perspective. For starters, a study by US-based independent research organization The Brookings Institution notes that between 2020 and 2021 alone, the number of professional developers in Africa rose by 3.8% - the same study also notes that despite this growth, "global companies have not yet taken full advantage of finding tech employees from Africa." In another study by global consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, it is said that the rate of internet penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown tenfold since 2010 -a rate that is three times that of global expansion- which promises steady growth for the continent's digital and technology sectors.

Now, take all of this information in the context of the global tech talent shortage- an ongoing crisis that has continued as an aftermath of sorts of The Great Resignation, but has also been majorly exacerbated by mass tech layoffs. A March 2023 report by US-based technological research and consulting firm Gartner highlights that "current demand for tech talent greatly outstrips supply." In September 2023, MIT Technology Review Insights revealed that in its poll of global tech leaders, 64% of respondents said candidates for their information technology (IT) and other tech jobs lacked necessary skills or experience, with another 56% citing an overall shortage of tech candidates as a concern.

With the UAE also being affected by this shortage of technically skilled professionals, Gebeya Dubai's launch seems timely. "With its rapidly growing economy, Dubai's booming tech sector faces a persistent talent gap, and as the demand for specialized tech skills surges, companies grapple with sourcing top-tier talent," Daffe says. "However, at Gebeya Dubai, we have noticed and been incredibly impressed with the Government of Dubai's ambitious D33 Economic Agenda [a series of 100 projects and initiatives by the UAE government that will work towards doubling the size of Dubai's economy over the next decade]. Therefore, by aligning with D33, we aim to accelerate meeting that skills gap. It is important for Dubai to not only ensure they fill the in-demand jobs of today, but also attract the skills and business talent to create the jobs of tomorrow. We're creating new possibilities for African talent in Dubai's tech ecosystem. For UAE employers, we expand access to qualified talent to enable growth."

Gebeya Dubai's commitment to fostering and supporting African tech talent, however, has been taken a notch further with the addition of what Daffe refers to as "a safety net." "With our expansion, we understood that empowerment goes beyond just connecting African talent with opportunities; it involves providing a holistic support system that ensures our talents thrive in every aspect," he continues. "This means addressing the unique needs of immigrants in the UAE, supporting them with immigration and law services, helping them with things like opening up a bank account, health coverage, and so much more. This, I believe, is our most unique value proposition that sets us apart from other job matching platforms in Dubai."

Source: Gebeya

But amid matching the right African tech talents to the right companies in the UAE, Gebeya Dubai has also managed to stay true to the quintessential Gebeya roots: upskilling and development of tech entrepreneurs. "Obviously access to a talent pool of skilled tech professionals, including software developers, designers, project managers, can help entrepreneurs, but we will also be offering training programs and mentorship opportunities to help entrepreneurs enhance their skills and knowledge," Daffe says. "Gebeya Dubai will also provide support in project management, product development, quality assurance, and business development. And finally, the platform will provide exposure to international markets and clients, allowing African tech entrepreneurs to expand their customer base and tap into opportunities beyond their local market."

Daffe hopes that the ripple effect of incorporating this entrepreneurial community-building efforts in the UAE will prove to be beneficial to the country's ties with Africa. "We aim to facilitate the exchange of talent, knowledge, and innovation between these regions," Daffe says. "Yes, we have big dreams for but, we also recognize the power of collaboration! We believe that together, we would harness the collective power of Africa and Dubai to redefine what is possible in technology and beyond. Our goal is to strengthen these ties, becoming the catalyst for a profound improvement in UAEAfrica relations."

As Gebeya Dubai's launch lingers just around the corner, Daffe declares that the regional branch's opening is set to facilitate a major end-result for Gebeya as a whole. "As Gebeya continues to flourish, our vision extends towards an ambitious horizon: attaining unicorn status," Daffe reveals. "We are proud of our growth trajectory because it is marked by the empowerment of thousands of talented individuals and the facilitation of countless tech-driven projects. Now, by establishing our presence in Dubai, we aim to create a hub for the growing number of African entrepreneurs, and skilled talent, to positively play a role in Dubai's innovation sphere."

Related: The Future Of Fintech May Well Be In Africa

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is particularly keen on writing stories involving people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

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