A student of the #gigeconomy, I am always reading what is being said about it. Although we all know it is a global talent market, sometimes sitting in the shadow of Silicon Valley, you can forget that the rest of the world may not be moving at the same pace.  Last Friday,I read a  great article about the gig economy in Africa which piqued my interest, especially because its development is being analyzed very rigorously and  in some jurisdictions, seriouss efforts, both public and private are being launched to accelerate its adoption.

In an Atlantic  article entitled, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/04/gig-economy-global/522954/ “What the Gig Economy Looks like Around the World” the author highlights the work of  Mark Graham, an Oxford professor at the Oxford Internet Institute.  He is billed as a “Professor of Internet Geography”, which is a title, I , for one, find fascinating.  He points out that there is a massive over supply of labor for low wage gigs found on digital platforms like TaskRabbit and Fiverr. As more and more people from the developing world join the platforms offering lower rates, wage compression occurs. The study looked specifically at workers in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Malaysia, Vietnam, and South Africa.

Graham points out that workers in these  countries face the benefits and potential risks of the gig economy. The former include income potential, work autonomy, and flexibility while the latter are isolation, discrimination and reduced employment security. The study looked at digital platforms as a source of freelance work as well as outsourcing domains, like call centers.  In the platform world, the risk of employment security was significant. In the outsourced operations, there were more issues around working conditions and the treatment of workers.

Some workers thought the digital platform by its nature enabled   bias that was either racial or based on the country of origin; one worker in Nairobi tried to make it look like he was in Australia to improve his chances of getting a gig. There were questions of what labor laws apply in work that is done on the cloud from workers that may be in many different countries. Professor Marks thinks this ambiguous question is one that requires an answer. To combat wage depression, it was thought there could be union efforts, but such efforts are difficult in a virtual environment.

Nonetheless, some governments see the emerging gig world as a potential tool to reduce poverty in their countries.  Nigeria has launched a major effort to educate its citizens about the benefits of freelancing called, Microwork for Job Creation.” http://nigerianjobsmarket.com/2013/03/11/microwork-job-creation-initiative-in-nigeria/ The program is designed to educate citizens about the opportunities in the digital world as well as showcase for Nigerian businesses the ways they may be able to work more efficiently. They have a Facebook presence as well, called NajaCloud.  Check it out at https://www.facebook.com/Naijacloud/posts/174030629411778

African entrepreneurs are also supporting the rise.  Four entrepreneurs in Cape Town launched GetTOD last summer. Much like Handy in the US, GetTOD is an on-demand service for plumbers, electricians and Handymen.Press releases say it is the first platform of its kind in South Africa.  Others are very likely to follow.



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