By 2035, Africa will contribute more people to the workforce each year than the rest of the globe. And by the year 2050, it will house 1.25 billion people of working age. To keep up, Africa will need to generate nearly 20 million new jobs each year.
Mind-blowing right? Ronnie Kwesi thought so too.
When the serial entrepreneur saw the stat, he and his friends Stephanie Nachemja-Bunton and Max Farago recognized a need that needed filling.
“One day, we came across this startling statistic and we thought this was crazy,” Kwesi said. It hit us that we could build a business around this. And personally, it resonated with me because I grew up in Ghana.”
Those Ghanian roots helped to drive Kwesi’s interest in co-founding Meaningful Gigs in 2018, a platform that connects African designers to short and long-term projects with top brands like Meta, Starbucks and AARP among other notables. He knew first-hand how necessary a brand like Meaningful Gigs can be for young professionals in African countries.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do for a career for a long time,” he shared with Essence. “While in still in high school I looked at the types of jobs I could get in Ghana and realized the best paying jobs for entry level students wouldn’t pay me more than $5,000 a year.
After learning this, Kwesi said he convinced his parents to allow him to attend school in the US to better his chances of earning a competitive salary.
“They gave me their life savings to come to America, and I went to college. And then something happened with family and my dad’s job. I had to drop out, so I couldn’t go to college, and I was stuck.”
After working odd jobs for a time, Kwesi said a friend told him something that shifted his professional trajectory forever.
“I sold, office supplies, door to door for a little while and worked in a mailroom at Morgan Stanley for a while and then a buddy of mine who I said kind of saved my life, said, ‘hey, you’re a smart guy, you shouldn’t let the lack of a college degree stop you.’ ”
So he didn’t.
He wound up landing a job at a startup in inside sales, which sparked his interest in tech.
“When I got into technology in sales, I excelled,” he explained. “I started doing well and rising up the ranks in the startup world and built admiration for startup founders and what they were able to build. They were able to come in, change the status quo, build things that had never been built before starting from the ground up and ultimately change the world.”
He said he was inspired to do the same, but wasn’t quite sure how until he read that incredible data about Africa’s future of work.
“We talked to Steph, who’s our other co founder to think through how we can build a company to answer this need, but not just any company. Our whole thing was ‘if we ever go out and dedicate our lives to building a company, we need to make sure that it’s not just about money. We need to change lives.
Four years later, they’re doing just that and investors have taken notice. It was announced earlier this year that the startup raised $6M in seed funding and are aiming to sign up more designers to foster growth.
“What we’re really trying to do is, along with the mission of creating these jobs in Africa, is making sure that the relationships that we create are strong ones and lasting ones,” said Max Farago, Meaningful Gig’s CTO. “We’re focusing on is making it easier and faster for our enterprise customers to hire our designers. They know that they want diverse designers. They don’t know that the designers in Africa are at the kind of level they need. It’s kind of one of those tropes that you hear about how talent is everywhere and opportunity is not. And that’s definitely one of the things that we’re trying to do with this product is ensuring the talent is connected to the opportunities they deserve, regardless of where they are.”