Business

How Kenyans mint millions from Africa's Sh164 billion gig economy

How Kenyans mint millions from Africa's Sh164 billion gig economy

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the gig and freelance economy as most of the jobs can be done remotely.

Last year, it was estimated that African freelancers comprise 10 per cent of the global freelance workforce. On a global scale, experts project that by 2030, 80 per cent of the world’s workforce will comprise of freelancers.

To provide solutions to this market, entrepreneurs are in the race to create a freelancer database. One such is Gebeya.com, one of the first Pan-African sources for freelance professional talent, which was founded in 2016.

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Enterprise interviewed Gebeya chief executive Amadou Daffe to understand this market.

What is your key target market?

Since our founding, Gebeya has existed to serve as the source for identifying skilled, qualified and reliable freelance professionals in Africa. Our goal is to dispel the idea that the continent lacks talent, but instead acknowledge the gap in matching said talent with the job opportunities in Africa, and globally.

We primarily service start-ups and SMEs across the continent, where we see the talent sourcing problem most acutely. But we also have several multinational and enterprise clients in Africa, as well as in secondary markets like North America and Europe. Our goal is to have at least 30 percent of our freelancers active on a project at any given time.

How much has the firm’s investment to build a strong marketplace and cement itself at the top?

The building of our marketplace was part of our investment funding. Prior to investment, we operated mostly a manual non-scalable marketplace model. We raised a $2 million (Sh216 million) seed investment in Feb 2020, co-led by Partech and Orange Ventures and followed by Consonance Investment Managers, to set up the machine for scale, fully automated and digitised.

What’s the scope of the African freelance market?

Africa claims only 1.4 per cent of the total addressable gig and freelancer economy industry, a figure estimated at $1.5 trillion. A Google and International Finance (IFC) report released last year stated that there are 700,000 software developers on the continent. The potential for growth is huge.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated this market or reshaped its future?

Pre-Covid-19 there was already a shift in the workforce with remote jobs and freelancing. Since the pandemic, the shift has been aggressive, for the better. Companies, from startups, to SMEs, to larger entities, had to re-evaluate operations and adopt more agile staffing practices, embrace the change in the work climate.

Professionals are focusing more on their needs, both professionally and personally, with many exploring becoming solo entrepreneurs. They’re finding freelancing just as economically feasible, with less strain and more control of their work environment, schedule, responsibilities and salary to freelance.

What are some of the main trends in the African freelance market?

The market here is nascent, so trends are still emerging. But a few of note: More types of roles are being considered as suited for freelance work. For example, even C-Suite level roles. Cross-continent sourcing is becoming more common. We have clients in Nigeria leveraging talents in Ethiopia. And a greater diversity of industries are augmenting their teams, or even launching their startups leveraging the power of freelancers.

What is the platform’s scope of operations in Kenya and future plans for this market

We are already active in East, West, and Francophone Africa, with multilingual, multi-skilled talents. In the future, we will have equally active operations in North Africa and Southern Africa. In Kenya, there is an especially strong representation of creatives in digital marketing and graphic design, alongside tech talent, too. There is a lower barrier to entry for tech jobs since they can be carried on remotely. But we are always responsive to market demand, looking down the road to Finance, Engineering, and even Legal.

What are the key highlights that have emerged from your assessment on the Kenyan freelance market?

Kenya has a unique work ecosystem. The concept of freelancing is not so foreign, as many people have a side-hustle in addition to a full-time job. The gaps we have recognized are formal channels through which to access freelance projects, especially remote ones outside of the country. And the proper payment and contracting systems in place to protect both parties (clients and freelancers). There are also many sites for remote writing and transcription gigs, but few places to access a diversity of jobs. We aim to be a one-stop-shop for clients to fulfil their professional talent needs as their businesses grow.

How does the marketplace work and how can one get started?

Our marketplace is all about streamlining the hiring process, for freelancers and customers. Freelancers can join the marketplace, for free, by downloading the Gebeya Talent app on iOS or Android. They then create a profile and pass through our rigorous vetting process.

Customers looking for talent can sign up on the client web app at app.gebeya.com, fill out their company profile, and post their project, identifying their specific need for individual talent or a core team, again at no cost. Once we receive customer requests, our matching algorithm identifies pre-vetted candidates for customers to select, interview and hire, all with the help of an assigned Gebeya account representative. 

How are the payment rates for freelancers determined and how competitive are they?

Freelancers set their own rates using a salary scale we provide, based on current marketplace trends per role and experience level. We’ve already done the research, eliminating any frustration for freelancers to determine themselves, what to charge for their services. So, no one is pricing themselves too low or too high, which allows them to stay on course with industry rates and practices. This is also critical as many startups and SMEs also require assistance with budgeting for their staffing needs. We guide both, our freelancers and clients, given our research and first-hand data.

How do you vet professionals to prevent rogues?

Our vetting process is thorough and extensive, but very streamlined and efficient. Once freelancers join the platform, they complete their profile and provide a CV, they are given a technical skills test that matches their role. Should they pass the skills test, they’re then interviewed by a subject matter expert within the same field. The interview is both quantitative and qualitative, screening for not only the skillset but talents with the right mindset and integrity. Roughly 30 percent of the freelancers on the marketplace advance beyond the vetting process.

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