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The Gig Economy in Africa: Opportunities for Freelancers

Oct 30, 2023 11:00AM ● By Okechukwu Nzeribe

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov

The onset of COVID-19 had a significant impact on the world and upturned conventional ways people lived their lives and conducted their businesses. The world of work took on a new form of flexibility for businesses. Online conferencing platforms such as Zoom became a popular means for businesses to continue to stay in touch and meet their customers’ demands.

While many were required to stay indoors and work from home, the situation provided an opportunity for individuals with certain skills to sell their services to companies looking to meet a yawning need within their organizations.

This created the gig economy or what can also be referred to as the world of freelancing or on-demand economy.

The gig economy is a form of work where people can choose their projects and have flexible working hours. With this new type of work, which is based on contract or project-based engagements, the traditional mode of employment no longer takes precedence as people can discover new ways of earning a living. 

The gig economy has been well-established in the US and Europe, but it has just begun to acquire significant traction in Africa.

In Africa, traditional employment models in some countries mean working long hours at one particular job and being paid at specific dates by the late end of the month. This places a considerable strain on the financial capacity of individuals with responsibilities and commitments.

The gig economy on the other hand offers flexibility which is one of its major benefits and this opens up opportunities to take up job-projects that would not hamper the individuals’ personal and professional lives. It also allows people the freedom to work from remote or rural locations without the burden of relocating to the cities. 

With the rapid growth in internet penetration and technology, the tools needed to thrive in the gig economy are now available at the fingertips of African Freelancers. An expanding mobile network platform, affordable smartphones, and steady internet connections mean more and more Africans can easily access platforms such as Fiverr, Upwork, and other freelance platforms to market their skills and be connected to different clients all around the world.

This connectivity also allows individuals to skill up to meet the growing demands of the market. Platforms like Udemy and Skillshop amongst others provide knowledge for specific in-demand skills that freelancers in Africa can leverage thereby breaking down traditional employment barriers and providing their services globally.

With a young and rapidly growing population, many African countries are experiencing a youth bulge, and this in turn has created a situation where unemployment is on the rise. With millions of young people entering the job market every year, the gig economy is a sure way to get many young people engaged and earning a considerable income by utilizing their skills and talents.

The gig economy is also a catalyst for entrepreneurship. As freelancers continue to earn and build a clientele through projects they take up, they can seize the opportunity to start up their businesses and employ other freelancers. This not only impacts the job market, it also brings in innovation and economic growth.

With the world becoming more and more of a global village, African workers can now access work opportunities that are not limited by location or traditional employment models. With a global client base and an income that is not affected by the economy where the freelancer is domiciled, the flexibility of the gig economy allows freelancers to have more control over their work-life balance.

When harnessed fully, the gig economy has the potential to transform Africa.

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 Okechukwu Nzeribe works with the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, in Anambra State, Nigeria, and loves unveiling the richness of African cultures. 

[email protected]

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