Judith Owigar is a social entrepreneur and visionary from Kenya. In 2010, when she was just 27 She co-founded AkiraChix and in 2015 founded JuaKali. Judith came up with the idea while she was helping a university professor on his research about workers in the informal sector and how they use mobile technology and the internet. While she interacted with the workers she realised that they are invisible to people walking on the streets, so she decided to figure out a way technology could be used to make them more visible to their potential customers. People who are referred to as JuaKali workers typically wait for customers and/or jobs in the hot sun. JuaKali means HOT SUN. This is the reason she named it JuaKali.
JuaKali Workforce targets urban out of school youth who operate at the fringe of the kenyan economy. JuaKali does not only help the youth in Kenya but it connects qualified workers in the informal sector to clients on demand. It offers the power of the web to mobile phone owners through SMS and mobile applications, connecting cleaners, welders, mechanics, electricians, carpenters, fumigators, etc…to the rapidly growing middle class of urban areas in Kenya.
Her previous enterprise is very different from this one. At AkiraChix she mainly dealt with young women, but with JuaKali she broadened her approach to work with both: young men and women. At AkiraChix she was working predominantly with technology , but with Juakali she is working with youth carrying out different trades. In summary JuaKali has a broader scope in terms of the people it will impact and the jobs they will carry out. Judith believes in JuaKali, she especially believes in the people that wake up every morning and she has faith that someone will call them up for a job. It is this faith that helped her receive seed funding from the ICT authority in Kenya, this funding helped her built the first version of the website and mobile application. Thereafter JuaKali was funded from her own personal resources because she believes that technology can help create and increase their livelihood opportunities.
But before all of this Judith did encounter some problems on her way to success, the first challenge she faced was understanding the users and the customers. She approached the problem from a purely technical angle and she later realised that the technology should serve the people and not the other way around . The second challenge was describing and implementing a business model that would create a sustainable revenue stream for the company. She is still working on the second challenge.
At the moment JuaKali is redefining its job placement model and has thus been strategizing on new focus areas for various trades and skills. They will relaunch the job placement service between April and June of 2017. Judith believes that modern employment is changing and services like JuaKali are offering a way for workers to be more visible and build their credibility so that they can be able to commend higher pay for their services. Her goal is to scale its services to different countries on the continent of Africa in the future all the while creating employment opportunities and enriching livelihoods.
Written by Maria Pedro Miala With the help of Judith Owigar
Maria Pedro Miala is a Mother, 2016-2017 Chanpion for Change at Empower Women for UN Women. She is a Changemaker, a Volunteer, a Mentor to African Students and has 10 years experience as a Nurse in Health Care.