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We’re bringing this week’s edition of Tech probe up first.
“What’s one tech innovation that still fascinates you?”
For me, it’s still sound recordings. I’m jamming to Celeste Ojatula’s Light as I write this but I still think it’s witchcraft that these sounds were recorded and are being played on plastic and metal creations.
What tech innovation still fascinates you? And yes, toasters count too. Reply to this email or send your response to us on Instagram or Twitter.
In today’s edition
- Inside Bento’s chaotic work culture
- Steps to take while job hunting
- Amazon’s Africa HQ is on hold
- E-hailing drivers are striking in South Africa
INSIDE BENTO’S CHAOTIC WORK CULTURE
According to Kelsey L.O, a Texan writer and critic, there are 4 signs that flag a startup’s workplace culture as bad. One, the boss only hears “yes”. Two, job descriptions are vague. Three, everyone works overtime. And, four, failure is discouraged and punished.
All of these markers have been reported to be entrenched in Bento’s workplace culture.
What is Bento?
Bento Africa (formerly known as Verifi.ng) is the brainchild of Ebun Okubanjo and Chidozie Okonkwo, his friend, business partner, and Bento’s Chief Operating Officer (COO). Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, Bento provides payroll management software to 900 businesses, including Tangerine Africa, Paystack, Kobo360, Branch, and LORI Systems.
What does Bento do to employees?
It’s less about what Bento does, and more about the CEO and co-founder, Ebun Okubanjo’s attitude to workers.
Here’s what Pascal, an ex-sales executive says: “Bento took everything from me—my sense of humanity, sanity, confidence, and trust. We worked around the clock. Ebun would send you messages by 2 AM and expect a response asap. No rest. We went to bed every night praying our jobs would still be there when we woke up the next morning.”
Another ex-employee, Ezekiel says, “It was a nerve-wracking experience and the worst 5 months of my adult life.” Ezekiel is also one of ex-Bento employees who are scared to speak out in fear for their lives. “Leave Ebun,” Ezekiel says. “That man can literally kill you and brag about it. He’s that vindictive.”
But what about Bento’s co-founder?
Now, while Bento has 2 founders, and Okubanjo and Okonkwo may have built Bento together, they aren’t quite of the same feather. All ex-employees who spoke to us described Okubanjo as fire and Okonkwo as neither water nor fire; Okonkwo simply remains in the background, silent and rarely engaged in the company’s day-to-day operations. These ex-employees, therefore, believe that Okonkwo’s attitude outsources all authority to Okubanjo and enables his toxicity.
Damilare Dosunmu has more about Bento in Tyranny in the workplace: The chaotic culture of Bento Africa.
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HERE ARE THE STEPS TO TAKE WHILE JOB HUNTING
Given recent conversations, it’s important to discuss how employees can get the best from their working experience.
It may be difficult to hear but job-hunting is a two-way street: employees are searching for great environments to help them grow, and employers are also looking for people who are not only qualified but are culturally competent.
The thing is though, the job hunting process is often treated like a one-way street where the employers get most, if not all the say. This makes a lot of sense because most industries are what we call employers’ markets—there’s more demand for jobs than there is supply for it i.e. potential employees outweigh job openings. This means that employers often have the choice of the market.
This is changing though. Talent, especially in Africa’s tech sector, is scarce. This means that employees can now take steps to ensure potential companies have everyone’s best interests at heart.
So here are a few steps you can take to ensure you’re getting the best from your potential employer:
- Research the company you’re interviewing with. This involves using review sites like Glassdoor and The Org or even doing keyword searches on social media for the company and your managers. If you’re a startup, getting your company listed on these sites can help boost your public profile, especially if you’re hiring.
- Ask pertinent questions during the interview/negotiation stage. Is this a new role/Why are you hiring for, How would you describe your workplace culture, What dies success in this role look like, are examples of important open-ended questions that can reveal what working for a startup is like. Here’s an important thread by Jade Carson that lists some of these questions.
- See if there’s a trial period. It’s fairly new to the ecosystem but some startups like Helicarrier offer a 30-day paid trial period where both the employee and employer can see if they’re a fit for one another.
- If you’re sent employment contracts, try to run them by legal advisors and yes, these include your lawyer friends. Lawyers can help you check if the employment contract is in line with your country’s labour laws, and ensure that those non-compete clauses, compensation and notice periods are fair for all.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but they are pretty important steps you should take before accepting an offer at any company or a startup.
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AMAZON’S AFRICA HEADQUARTERS IS ON HOLD
About a year ago, Amazon received approval to build its first African headquarters in South Africa. The building project was expected to roll out in phases over 3-5 years, creating up to 19,000 indirect and induced jobs.
But indigenes revolted that the US Company is defiling a sacred land.
After much revolting…
Last week, a South African court ordered Amazon to pause construction of its 4 billion rand ($280 million) headquarters in South Africa, after about 50,000 objections from different parties.
Sounds like a victory for the indigenes
Amazon’s history in South Africa dates back to 2004, with a customer service unit operating since 2010. Today it boasts of three data centres, a workforce of about 7,000 people, with more job opportunities listed on its website.
Big question: This court order raises questions over whether Amazon will abandon its future Africa headquarters location in South Africa or move to a different country, what do you think?
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E-HAILING RIDERS ARE STRIKING IN SOUTH AFRICA
More news from SA.
Drivers of e-hailing platforms including Uber, Bolt, DiDi, and InDriver are embarking on a 3-day strike in South Africa.
Well, according to the association representing the drivers—the Public Private Transport Association—the drivers are being exploited by the platforms they work for. While some are protesting the high-income rates by the platforms, others are protesting their safety.
In South Africa, Uber charges a 25% commission from drivers while Bolt recently increased its commission from 15% to 20%. Coupled with discounts that these platforms use to incentivise users, and increasing fuel prices in South Africa, most drivers are reporting a decrease in income.
The drivers are also protesting for helpful safety features that help drivers, as well as riders, especially considering last year’s incident where a Bolt driver was shot and killed by a rider.
The 3-day strike, which will kick off on Wednesday, will end with the presentation of a memorandum at the Gauteng Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure agency.
Who will regulations help?
Strong regulations in the e-mobility space will help keep employers vicariously liable for actions taken by their employees. This means that countries with strong laws on this would be able to sue Bolt or Uber if their vetted drivers assault them
It’s also good news for employees or drivers who will also be able to ensure that the platforms they drive for are not exploiting them.
These conversations are critical today, especially in places like Nigeria and Kenya where complaints of assault against Bolt drivers are lighting up social media.
Zoom out: Bolt did respond to the South African drivers by pointing out that its commission fee is lower than what Uber charges. The Gauteng Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure agency, on the other hand, called for the drivers to call off their planned strike or face legal action.
- The Ethiopian Women in Energy (EWiEn) has launched a start-up incubator programme designed to support women developing renewable energy solutions and ideas. Selected applicants will get training on branding, team building, market research and many others. Check it out.
- The Acumen Accelerator 2022 for Ventures Serving Displaced People is now open to applications from East African businesses and startups that create sustainable living solutions for displaced people in East Africa. Selected startups will share up to $75,000 in grants. Find out more.
- The Women in Africa (WIA) Young Leaders Programme is now open to applications. Eight African women who are involved in building a dynamic, innovative, and inclusive Africa will get benefits like media visibility, networking and training. See if you fit.
- The King Hamad Award for Youth Empowerment to Achieve the SDGs 2022 is now open to applications. Young leaders and youth-led entities from UN-member states who are contributing to the welfare of their communities are invited to apply for the chance to get up to $45,000. Check it out.
What else we’re reading
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Written by – Timi Odueso & Daniel Adeyemi
Edited by – Kelechi Njoku
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