The Voice Business &Finance
With Musa S. Sheriff
The platform to discuss your business. Call 7079257or Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our guest for this week on The Entrepreneur is Momodou Camara, an entrepreneur, Banker, youth leader, and humanitarian worker. He is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Outsource Recruitment Agency Gambia – an institution creating jobs for Gambians and non-Gambians.
Mr. Camara in this edition shared his life experience with our Editor-In-Chief, Musa S Sheriff on how he started from his school days, his work with newspapers, banks, administration of education NGO, the establishment of Outsource, and also the setting up of Sami Institute of Nursing and Health Science located in Abuko.
The Voice: Can you please introduce yourself to your reader, date, place of birth, and education?
Camara: I’m Momodou Camara but shortened to Modou. I was born in Bansang where my mother comes from but originally we are from Kudang in the CRR region. We are raised in a Mandinary village where I did my primary education and then proceeded to Nusrat High School between 1989 and 1994.
I did a diploma course in Tourism and Travel Agency Management with the College of professional management in the UK but was a distance learning course.
I also went to The West African Insurance Institute for my diploma and Advance Diploma in marketing.
In 2014 my bank sponsored me to do a course in banking at the Institute of Bankers of Nigeria through the Institute of Bankers of the Gambia and graduated as a qualified Associate Chartered Banker in the area of Risk Management and also we were the first homegrown Chartered Bankers.
I later did my Masters in International Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid with Kalu Institute in Spain sponsored by my current employer.
The Voice: What was your dream after High School?
Camara: My dream was to become Lawyer or Journalist but that dream was immediately shattered when I found myself in the science class a decision that was very difficult to turn down from the school administration those days. But then I had the second option of doing a combination of both science and commerce subjects so I could neither decide anything until when I left school.
Those days, in Nusrat, students were left to choose their subjects when promoted to form 3 but unfortunately for us, it changed because not many students chose the science class so they selected people like us to do it.
The Voice: Tell us about your first job taking into consideration the salary and working conditions.
Camara: Lols. That was not even a job but a sales agent job that I was doing at the Gambia Tourism Concern where we were given a tourism magazine to sell at D15 to tourists. In return, we get D5 as a commission and it was through that I got a job with The Voice Newspaper then called The Inquirer, and that too I could not recall if there was a salary. But I think it was commission-based which was difficult at that time but we tried. We made sure that we will reach out to customers and introduce the paper to them. We had to walk from one office to the other just to make sure we get an advert.
My first salary which was D1500 came from the Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Societies as a Secco Manager posted to the province. My role was to purchase, organise, coordinate, and plan the activities of members of that cooperative society which involves about 30 villages.
The Voice: You have just talked about working for a newspaper advertising its product, and also advertising company tell us how was it
Camara: Yes, I did work as a marketing agent in the then Inquirer newspaper and this was a very tough period because it is competing with newspapers that had been existing like the defunct Daily Observer, The Point, and Foroyaa. However despite all odds we tried to make sure that we are dedicated and focused to make sure that we succeed and I am happy that today the paper which is rebranded as The Voice Newspaper is doing well in the market.
In the advert industry, I joined an advert Agency called Dmessage Ltd. They came to the Gambia to take part in launching Access Bank Ltd and they were responsible for all the branding activities of the Bank. I was helping them before they arrived here until they settled and went through an interview and was lucky to be selected because they saw great opportunities in the Gambia market. I can tell you we were the first to introduce the Scoreboard and Lamp post adverts at the National Stadium. The tagging of trolleys at the airport and even the main gate were used as potential areas for advertising. The Wall drapes advertising started with us and in those days you can see either on top of buildings or their walls adverts made by Dmessage. The Lamp post too started with us.
Currently, I represent them here as they have moved to Sierra Leone but I do run some of their adverts here at various radio stations. However, I was enjoying it there but later joined the banking industry.
The Voice: How did you get into Banking, for how long, and what were the challenges at that time when commercial banks were just increasing in the country?
Camara: I spent close to 10 years in the banking industry but working at an advert agency has allowed me to meet many top people. it was one of these meetings I and my boss went to at Mega Bank and then Bank PHB when they newly took over from the management of IBC then I heard the MD saying they will soon advertise some positions and I developed an interest and started following newspapers until I saw the adverts and applied and lucky to be selected.
The start was very tough I even regretted why I joined the bank then because there was competition and heavy targets were given to us. I remembered we were to open 20 accounts a day and by the end of the week, they will call your name and mention the number of accounts you opened while at the end of the month, they will send you warning letters from the HR department for not meeting the target. So it was very tough for everyone and others even resigned but I fought on until I crossed all bridges.
The bank became a household name in the country because we did make a lot of noise in the market through market storms and this made it a lot easier for us.
Later we became a threat to most of the banks because of our aggressive nature of marketing as there was this slogan we had “impossible does not exist.”
The Voice: Did you resign from the Bank or what led to your departure?
Camara: Lol. Yes, I resigned from the bank in late 2018 and I was not forced out. It came at a time when I was even left with one subject to complete my course which the bank sponsored. It was a surprise to many and even the management could not understand. I was at my peak I would say because I used to serve in an acting position when my branch manager is on leave.
When tendered my resignation I was called by my then Group Head and when it reached the HR level, a similar thing happened as well. Later they accepted my resignation through a letter which I’m still having a copy of.
I think I had enough in the banking industry and I had plans to set up something for myself looking at the nature of working at a bank it will be very difficult so I need to look for another job that is less demanding for me to achieve my dream.
The Voice: You left the bank where did you head to?
Camara: I left the bank to join a British NGO called Friends of The Gambia Association as the Country Representative. This is an organization in existence here for more than 2 decades sponsoring school children and helping communities by building health centers and so on.
The Voice: You are currently working for education NGOs, tell us your role and responsibility
Camara: I serve as the Country Representative for the organisation. My responsibilities include the general administration of the organisation’s activities in the country. Making sure we provide all reports including financial and management activities that we have done. Represent the organisation in all NGO functions that we are invited to attend.
The Voice: With a good job in education, why Outsource, and when was it established?
Camara: Lols, be reminded that I said I left the bank because I wanted to do something for myself and this is why I left.
Outsource Recruitment Agency was established in June 2022 and the reason for coming up with a recruitment agency was that I saw a very big gap in this industry. We have a lot of people searching for jobs and finding it difficult to get one and others would not even apply because they don’t have hopes of getting one. That being the case I studied the market and came up with Outsourcing. I understand that most of the agencies in this sector have segmented themselves, for example, security companies focus on security guards, House help focuses on house helps, etc but with Outsource we made it all-inclusive for all those looking for jobs.
Another thing that motivated me was the fact that most of us struggled to get a job when we completed school and me and some of my friends will be going from one office to the other looking for a job we called Operation Find a Job and this was how most of us got a job.
Despite all odds, we were not discouraged but now you can see people try one or two places without a job then they got discouraged without worrying again to apply.
Outsource has increased the hope of those people and some were lucky to secure jobs through us.
The name Outsource was used because we want companies to outsource their staff to us. For example, you can ask Outsource to recruit marketers who will be under our management of us on behalf of that company. They will be responsible for their salaries which are paid through Outsource. The benefit of this is that there will be higher productivity as well as reduced operational cost like rent and transport. Some of our current partners are enjoying that.
The Voice: What do you do at Outsource?
Camara: At Outsource we created a set of Outsource Recruitment WhatsApp groups and the website. In this group, we have close to 5000 people that are registered and all looking for jobs. These include university graduates to other tertiary institutions, school dropouts, and so on. What we do is search for jobs from various areas and then post them in the group so people can apply. This has made us becoming the leading recruitment agency and our brand is well known to the public.
We also partner with other recruitment agencies because of the enormous size of our database to provide them with staff and others are allowed to advertise their positions too which we are very proud of.
We are happy to say that we have created almost 300 jobs from June to December 2022 and currently we have almost closed that gap before the first half of the year.
We also assist companies through recruitment in the following ways either collecting CVs of applicants and forwarding them, conducting pre-interviews, and sending the final list to the company to conduct the final interview for themselves.
The Voice: As a young entrepreneur, what are some of the challenges in starting a business in this country?
Camara: The issue of starting a business in the country is not easy. To penetrate this business you need to take great risks because it’s difficult for people who have the supporting powers to support you unless they see you are successful. Some will wait until they see you have at least taken care of the risk then they try to start something similar and compete with you after paving the way. I remember that I even had to use my salary for most of the operational expenses and did not give up. The people that we recruited do not pay us and some companies were paying us minimal amounts at the start of the job just to maintain ourselves and Partner with them.
We have gone to a stage where it was difficult for us to maintain our office space and luckily one of the biggest philanthropists in the country after seeing what we are doing provided me with an office where we are currently located at the former Jammeh Foundation for Peacebuilding at Churchhill Town.
The Voice: Rounding up this segment, any words to leave behind
Camara: I would first thank you for this interview which is well appreciated. I would like to formerly use this opportunity to inform companies and other institutions that Outsource Recruitment Agency is here to assist them with all their recruitment needs. We have lots of jobseekers looking for jobs and we would like to partner with them so we can either be supplying them with staff or they outsource their staff to us and we will take care of them.
I would also use this opportunity to thank all our customers for their trust in us and they continue doing business with us and even recommend us to others.