African Freelancers in the Global Gig Economy: Is There Hope?

Written by Shukuru Amos

I am the founder of Tanzlite Digital, Creator, Author of Mbele Ya Muda, and the most followed Tanzanian marketer on LinkedIn.

Posted August 17, 2022

Africa is home to a growing number of freelancers who provide services online. These digital workers enable Africans to participate in the global gig economy, which is expected to grow in the coming years. As the gig economy grows, concerns remain about how it will impact African freelancers and their ability to compete with non- Africans.

These digital platforms have enabled more people globally to become freelancers and offer services online at a lower cost than traditional businesses. The number of African freelancers has grown as a result of these developments, especially among millennials in several countries.

However, there are many barriers that continue to limit opportunities for African freelancers. Let’s take a closer look at these issues and what can be done about them.

What is the gig economy?

A gig economy refers to the practice of individuals finding work through online platforms, with little or no commitment from the employer. The term “gig” refers to the short-term nature of many of these tasks, which can include anything from freelance writing to online coding.

According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, gig work is expected to grow globally as a result of several factors. These include an aging population, which will reduce the number of people working in the formal sector, as well as an increase in the number of women working.

Additionally, advancements in technology have made it easier for people to work remotely — including freelancers — and enabled them to earn more by serving a broader client base.

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African freelancer demographics

Freelancers in Africa are a relatively young group, with 46% of them under 35 years old. Millennials represent a larger portion of the African freelancer demographic than any other generation. This is partly due to the fact that millennials are more likely to work in the digital economy and are comfortable with technology as well as with freelance work.

Freelancers in Africa earn an average of $8 an hour, with Liberians earning the highest average rate of $14 an hour and Nigerians earning the lowest average of $4 an hour. Freelancers in Africa hail from a wide range of occupation groups, including health and education professionals, professional and technical workers, and business and finance workers.

The majority of African freelancers work in the business and financial services industry, with a smaller number of freelancers working in the health and education industry.

Rising demand for digital services

The growing demand for digital services has made online freelancing platforms, such as UpWork and Freelancer.com, more attractive to Africans. In fact, Africans have been some of the most active users of these platforms.

As more Africans participate in these online platforms, they provide an opportunity for Africans to earn more and gain a foothold in an industry that has been historically off limits to them.

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However, digital services face several challenges. Africans are not the only ones who want to participate in the digital economy. The gig economy has become a global phenomenon, with people from other regions migrating to Africa and competing with local digital services.

Concerns for African freelancers in the gig economy

The digital economy has created new challenges for freelancers in Africa as it has elsewhere. Many Africans have complained that they have to wait longer than non-African freelancers to secure a job on online platforms.

We have also heard from African freelancers that they feel they are asked to work for less than non-African freelancers. The growing presence of non-African freelancers on digital platforms has raised the question of whether Africans will be able to compete against them.

Freelancers in Africa tend to be younger and earn less than non-African freelancers, who may have more experience and a larger client base.

Conclusion

The gig economy has created opportunities for Africans to earn money and participate in the global marketplace. However, the growth of this industry has also raised concerns over how African freelancers will be able to compete with non-African freelancers.

In order to tackle these issues, African freelancers need to build networks, collaborate, and continue to innovate. They also need to be patient, as it may take some time before they are able to earn as much as they would like.

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