One of the major problems facing African countries is the escalating rate of unemployment.

Nigeria, which has the highest rate of unemployment, for example, recorded an outrageous number of 11 million unemployed people in 2017. This figure continues to increase with the rise in population leaving thousands of youths jobless and unemployed.

However, times are changing, more Africans especially youths are starting to look outside the conventional forms of employment. With the penetration of the internet into the African continent, more people have embraced freelancing as a day job. This article examines the rise of freelancers in Africa.

Today, freelancers represent 35% of the United States workforce and in the European Union, the rate is 16.1%. Although freelancing in Africa is not as vibrant as these two other continents, it is steadily gaining ground. Many freelancers in Africa now provide services which range from graphic designing to translation, writing, photography, programming, blogging and many others.

The freelance economy popularly called the “gig economy” has become a vibrant sector as many Africans have embraced it either part time or full time. The larger majority of these new converts are surprisingly new graduates and the reason for this is not far-fetched. The availability of jobs, the flexibility of freelance working hours, the freedom and independence freelancing brings and other things make it an easy choice.

Business image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com

In an interview with Work Online Kenya, Bamidele, a freelance writer from Nigeria says:

“I think the future is good. Africans are increasingly starting to see that being a non-native English speaker doesn’t limit them, and the number of Africans using the internet is increasing at a rapid pace.”

No doubt the increase in the use of internet has largely enhanced freelancing in Africa. Many people are gathering computer skills and using them to offer services that were originally hard to find. Also, the internet has brought about better access to foreign markets and clients.

Freelancers in Africa have brought about a huge competition to conventional work. Many companies, especially in the technological sector, now prefer employing freelancers because of their relatively lower costs. The difference in currency rates has also helped to put freelancers in Africa in an advantaged position. Speaking on this, Ike Okosa, the founder of e-worker says:

“In the UK for instance, it would typically cost you £6,000 to hire a full stack developer with 4 to 5 years experience. Here in Nigeria, we are able to provide the same people with a similar experience for 60 percent reduction in the price. We provide for £2,000. So, there’s a reduction in the price.”

With the increase in the number of freelancers in Africa, other freelance-related startups and businesses have also sprung up. More than ever before, freelance bloggers and websites have begun to take relevance in the environment. An example is African freelancers which is the first online website for freelancing in Africa that provides tips on freelancing, interviews and offers gigs to freelancers.

Freelancing startups have also sprung at unbelievable speed. Various startups built to link freelancers and clients within the African continent now exist. A couple of the popular ones include Kuhustle which is Kenyan based, Hooros and Mintor from SouthAfrica, Asuqu and Freeciti from Nigeria. With these startups freelancers in Africa can easily connect with their market and clients willing to complete their projects can easily find the right freelancer for them. For more on freelancing startups, visit Freelancing startups

The story of freelancing in Africa is however not all glitter, freelancers still face a lot of challenges in Africa. The problem of inaccessibility to basic amenities and services is still a major problem. Many freelancers in African countries still battle with the problem of electricity. They incur huge amounts in the process of securing constant electricity through the use of generator sets. Another issue is the lack of popularity of freelancing in Africa.

Africa as a continent is a wide market for freelancers because of its large population, however, only a few number of this population know what freelancing is. Also, freelancers in Africa constantly struggle with higher standards of convincing foreign clients of their legitimacy and this sometimes leads to loss of projects and clients.

With the current demand for fast and easy delivery of goods and services along with the continued relevance of internet in Africa, the freelancing economy is growing larger. The demand for the services is also increasing and freelance services are becoming more valuable by the day. Freelancing is becoming the new trend in Africa and a large number of people are joining the bandwagon, however, the full effects of the gig economy would be felt if only the challenges facing it are solved.

What is your opinion on this issue? Share it in the comments section.

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Posted by:Muhammed Badamasi

Badamasi is an avid reader and a freelance writer. He is an African literature enthusiast who lives in Lagos, Nigeria. He enjoys writing about art, literature, politics and governance.

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