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Living on the Covid side of life: The new normal and the rise of Gig economic platforms in Africa

Gig economy companies doubled down on providing health care and sanitary support to workers on their platforms.

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Would you like to be a taxi driver? You know, using your vehicle to transport people around town and get paid? Many people would say no, preferring to work in full-time employment where career progression is possible. Today, there are thousands of educated Nigerians, including some with regular day jobs, working as on-demand drivers on platforms like Uber and Bolt. Some people have even quipped that driving for these platforms pays better than their day jobs.

Ride-hailing platforms such as Uber and Bolt are the poster child of the gig economy—a catch-all term used to describe online marketplaces that have emerged over the last decade for short-term and freelance work.
These marketplaces typically focus on niche services such as transportation, food delivery, content writing, music production, graphics design or programming. These fully digital marketplaces try to match people (the buyer) with independent workers (the seller) who can provide these services on request; meanwhile, the platform handles everything from payments to ratings for the buyer and seller. A report by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) estimates that the global gig was worth $4.5 trillion in 2018, with the US unsurprisingly being the largest market with 53 million gig workers and total gig spending of $1.3 trillion.

Across Africa, the gig economy platforms take different forms. For example, there are Kobo360 and Lori Systems, two companies that have each raised at least $37 million to connect people with third-party truck drivers on-demand. Lori Systems estimates that the African haulage market is worth $180 billion annually.
There’s also SweepSouth, which has raised $6 million from investors, and Eden Life, which provide on-demand home cleaning services, among many other things, in South Africa and Nigeria, respectively. But there are also other platforms for professional services like accounting, graphics design, programming, content writing, among others. Some companies, such as Toptal, recruit experienced developer talent for international companies with salary opportunities above the local market rates. Other platforms connecting skilled workers to international clients include UpWork, Paydesk and Fiverr, an $8.6 billion company listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 2019.

Buoyed by these platforms, the number of gig workers in Africa has increased over the last few years. For unemployed skills workers, freelancing is a crucial way to earn a living on the internet. Freelancing has become a vital side hustle with clients springing forth from developed countries and willing to pay in dollars for professionals.
However, with the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020 and COVID-19 control measures, the global economy tumbled. The lockdowns, particularly full lockdowns, grounded mobility and forced many people to isolate themselves at home. Business temporarily shut down physical operations, and employees started working from home. But not every job can be done from home, and that’s definitely the case for many gig workers offering ride-hailing services.

Ride-hailing suffered as ride orders plummeted globally, affecting the earning power of many gig workers. For instance, in the second quarter of 2020, Uber’s gross booking volume declined by 35% compared to the previous year. Other platforms such as Kobo360 and Lori Systems worried about the impact of government lockdowns, with Kobo360 warning that 3,000 of its truck drivers in Nigeria stopped working until they got clarity on the mobility restrictions.

In African countries such as Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa and Kenya, Uber and Bolt swiftly introduced logistics services—which were classified as essential services by the government—to keep these companies and their drivers in the business. But this was not enough. And because gig workers are not employees, they are not eligible for steady salary payments, paid leave, insurance and health benefits, although this is a rapidly evolving area with the recent judgement by the UK Supreme Court on the status of Uber Drivers. Indeed, the experience was scary for many, with several news reports early in the pandemic proclaiming the gig economy was dead.

But they were wrong. The gig economy is more alive than ever. While Uber and Bolt suffered declines in the first half of 2020, ride orders soared again in the second half, and Uber could return to pre-pandemic growth levels by the first half of 2021. Logistics services such as Eden Life, OyaNow, Gokada and Jumia Food have recorded impressive growth since March 2020 as the food delivery industry reorganised amid the lockdown and gained traction in the months that followed.

Outside food delivery, the number of independent riders working as logistics providers for other businesses, including Jumia, the pan-African retailer, is reportedly growing. At one point in mid-2020, the Nigerian government threatened to enforce stricter logistics regulations because the number of operators had increased within a short period.

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Financial services play an important role in the gig economy. For starters, payments is at the heart of commercial exchanges on gig platforms. These days, companies are leveraging embedded financial services to build wallets to hold a user’s funds and lending solutions to buyers and sellers on their platform.

A crucial part of the resilience of the gig economy, particularly platforms and providers of physical services, is they are highly essential. When Kobo360 warned of disruptions to its truck activities, it predicted that supermarkets and major stores could run out of food items, medical supplies and other critical items within seven days. That warning was instructive, and within a few days, the government clarified the exemption for essential service workers to include truck drivers moving in and out of a state. Food delivery and other logistics operators have also benefited from their essential status, which has kept them in business.

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Also, gig economy companies doubled down on providing health care and sanitary support to workers on their platforms. Over the last year, Kobo360, Uber, Bolt, Jumia, Gokada, among others, have each supplied their riders with nose masks, hand sanitisers and other support to help them complete their orders within different cities.
But while physical gig economy services are the most visible kind of freelance work, professional services are growing despite the pandemic. The world is flat. And technology, especially communication services, have shrunk the world even further by enabling buyers halfway across the globe to find and hire skilled workers to provide a service—ranging from accounting, data analysis, video production, content writing, programming and content marketing.
Call them a mix of creatives and techies; these jobs are increasingly populated by skilled young Africans who are bypassing geography limitations to earn from abroad while residing in their home countries. Last year, gig economy platforms like UpWork and Fiverr saw their numbers reach new highs as demand for professional services soared. For instance, Fiverr, which has 3.4 million active buyers, saw its revenue grow 77% year-on-year to top $189.5 million in 2020. Homegrown African companies such as TalentQL, Semicolon, Gebeya and Decagon are equally connecting Africa’s top developer talent to global companies.

For venture capitalists, the gig economy represents a growing and profitable opportunity because of the large number of young Africans and the relatively low living costs (compared to rich countries). If properly trained, Africa’s young folks could turn the continent into a crucial hub that supplies the world with talent for a wide variety of tasks such as article writing and programming.

For us at Trium and other venture builders and investors, the goal now is to identify startups and local platforms that are enabling this on the continent and support them. Because like it or not, Africa is the future. Its young population of digital natives represent an essential chance to leapfrog many of the continent’s challenges using creatively and using technology. We’re excited for the future and on the lookout for innovators building scalable gig economy platforms.

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As you ponder on these words, whether you’re an individual investor or investment firm, its important to develop partnerships with venture builders and trend spotters who provide better access to deals and investment opportunities. The same goes for enterprising startups on the lookout for the right connections with a venture builder that not only provides much-needed funding to grow your business but is committed to your success in Africa and beyond. That’s where we, Trium, come in: we’re venture builders and an investment firm chasing game-changing innovation.

Website: https://trium.ng

LinkedIn: https://ng.linkedin.com/company/trium-limited1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/trium_limited

 

By: Adedeji Olowe and Oluwatoyin Ashipa

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"NM Partners" represent articles published in partnerships with Corporate Organisations, Government and Non-Governmental Institutions, and other stakeholders seeking to publish content on Nairametrics. Content includes Press Releases, Targeted content, and other forms of corporate communications targeted at our readers. Some of these content are paid for.

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Jaiz deploys NQR code to Fraser Suites

The NQR service is designed for merchants/individuals to receive or make payments for goods and services.

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Jaiz Bank Plc, the premier Non-Interest Bank in Nigeria has deployed the newly introduced Quick Response Code (NQR) to Fraser Suites in Abuja as part of the Bank’s efforts to drive contactless payment solutions in the country.

Managing Director/CEO of Jaiz Bank Mr. Hassan Usman presented the platform to the Managing Director of Fraser Suites, M.G Nasreddin, yesterday.

During the presentation, Usman said the indigenous Payment Platform provides a reliable and enhanced payment experience that would lower transaction costs for customers.

The MD assured the Fraser boss that the NQR Code would ensure quick and convenient means of payments for goods and services.

On his part, Nasreddin appreciated Jaiz Bank for the deployment of the NQR, saying the platform would assist in easing payment for customers.

The NQR service is designed for merchants/individuals to receive or make payments for goods and services. The Platform is integrated with the Bank’s existing mobile banking application to support retail payment and cardless ATM withdrawal.

The payment system will only require customers to log into the app, scan the NQR code, authenticate the transaction with a PIN and merchants are instantly credited with the value. It enhances the scanning to pay mode, fast-track the process for receiving money in real-time, and facilitates quick payments.

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Bayer set to hold the 3rd edition of the Nigeria Maize Conference

This year’s conference which will be virtual is tagged “Much More Maize” and is scheduled for the 22nd of April 2021.

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Bayer Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Bayer AG, Germany has announced its plan to hold the 3rd edition of its annual Nigeria Maize conference. This year’s conference which will be virtual is tagged “Much More Maize” and is scheduled for the 22nd of April 2021.

Speaking ahead of the conference, the Country Sales Manager, Bayer Nigeria Ltd, Mr. Temitope Banjo said that the Nigeria Maize Conference is an initiative to bring together stakeholders in the Maize agricultural value chain, to deliver innovative solutions that would help Nigerian farmers maximize their farm yields and secure their harvests from devastating disease and pests.

According to Banjo, “Nigeria is yet to reach its full potentials in terms of maize productivity, for example where a hectare of farmland in Egypt can yield up to 7 metric tonnes per hectare, a farm of the same size in Nigeria only produces around 1.8 metric tonnes per hectare which is one of the lowest among the top 10 maize producers in Africa.” He went on to say that even though Nigeria is presently the largest producer of Maize in Africa, the country is still not able to meet up with its domestic and industrial needs for the crop.

He stated that the challenges with maize production in Nigeria are mainly due to poor agronomic factors and the use of bad seeds during planting and cultivation, and there is a need to educate our farmers on how they can increase the productivity and profitability of their farms, hence the theme for this year’s conference.

Commenting on how Bayer intended to address the maize production challenges in Nigeria, the Managing Director of Bayer Nigeria Ltd., Mr. Sefihait Kone explained that Bayer has a suite of products which is called the Bayer “Much More Maize” toolkit, specially put together to help farmers protect their crops and boost productivity of their farms from the planting phase through the harvesting stage.

“We will show how these products, if used properly have the potential to increase the profitability of their farms which translates to higher revenue for them. We hope that once all farmers imbibe these proper procedures, it will have a ripple effect on the economy and increase the food sufficiency of the country,” Kone stated.

Some of the guests and keynote speakers expected at the virtual conference include Alhaji Abubakar Bello who is the President of the Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), Dr. Olusegun Ojo, the Director of the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) as well as experts from Bayer in person of Dr. David Wangila and Dr. Joseph Kibaki.

Visit https://nigerianmaizeconference.com/#register to register for the event.

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Bayer is an innovation company with a more than 150-year history. Its scientific successes are intended to help improve people’s lives. It’s a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture.

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