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The Freelance Market Penetration; Winning Talent Wars in Africa

By Amadou Daffe

Freelancing has changed the nature of how Africa’s workforce access jobs, shifting the source of job opportunities from the conventional informal labor to digital and virtual work space. Needless to say, the unprecedented pandemic that hit the world in the early months of last year has greatly contributed to the revolution of the workplace, especially in Africa. Professionals continue to either drop the 9-5 jobs or add freelancing into their resume just to get that extra income to support their livelihoods in these harsh economic times. This has played out in mature markets like Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa, as well as in less mature markets like Ethiopia and Senegal, and globally.

The global freelance market size was estimated at USD 2.4 billion (in 2018) and Africa accounts for only 2% of this value although there has been an upsurge in the freelance market in the continent especially since the advent of the pandemic. According to Globe News Wire, the global market is projected to boom at a CAGR of 15.3% during 2021-2026.

Although freelancing has taken the market by storm, talent matching in Africa remains a rampant problem as seniority is scarce in several verticals. This has been witnessed and comes as a confirmation upon the recent Africa-wide launch of Gebeya Inc’s revamped Talent Marketplace platform, a Pan-African source for freelance professional talent.

Senior talents are quickly grabbed by well-funded startups and tech multinationals settling more and more in Africa. The reason why this is not happening at a more accelerated rate is because of the lack of certain types of talents. Organizations are finding it too expensive or unsustainable to constantly import expats to solve problems specific to African countries. As for African SMEs and not well-funded startups who want to prove out their models, senior talent costs more than they can afford. Due to the scarcity of talent, a good experienced senior full-stack developer and an experienced digital marketing manager will cost anywhere from $2000 to $5000 USD monthly depending on what country they are in.

The continent is faced with a big dilemma. On one hand, we have an increase of African startups being funded: $6 billion+ since 2019 raised to date; and more than $2.9 billion since the start of this year, including $817 million in September 2021 alone, according to Africa: The Big Deal. VC investment in Africa is predicted to exceed $10 billion by 2025, according to the annual Partech Africa Report.

And on the other side a serious shortage of a certain level of experienced talent across the continent is pervasive. It takes an average of 3 years to turn an intermediate talent into a senior with enough experience. Given that the majority of the tech talent in the continent are between Juniors and Intermediates based on our research and own onboarded talent, something drastic and exponential needs to be done to moonshot the number of experienced talent who can be classified at the level of senior or expert. There’s no reason why SMEs, startups, large companies and multinationals can’t all have their fair share of resources. As it stands at the moment the ecosystem is unbalanced. There is also a perceived poaching problem.

The solution to this problem is deploying a concerted ecosystem-wide effort. By creating a system that galvanizes the existing elements of companies, startups, and SMEs, investors, incubators & accelerators, universities, African Diaspora, and talents to then produce equipped talents within a two-year span. Separately, they each can identify the role and resources to be contributed in making this happen. We all need to plan better. Hiring in Africa cannot be done ad hoc. We need to all have a two-year projection of our hiring needs and start to groom the talent early. Now, understanding the urgency in solidifying such a system is key. If we fail to build a healthy and sustainable ecosystem of its kind within the next few years, we ultimately run the risk of its collapse.

The best freelance talent marketplaces thrive on quality, not quantity. As companies embrace the need to stay on pace with an evolving global job market, Gebeya unlocks a new source of eager, available professional talents from across Africa. There is immense untapped skilled talent ready to work and the demand for African talent is on the rise by the day. Gebeya closes the gap between companies and their next best hires by bringing the African skilled talent to a hungry global market.

Gebeya is pledging to be an integral solution to this ramping talent “seniority” problem. We understand the problem very well from both being a startup that needs talents for itself but also by interacting on a  monthly basis with hundreds of companies (startup, SMEs and large enterprises) on the continent. Every company, entrepreneur that we work with, we essentially become partners. We have seen ourselves educating companies about smart hiring. Which pretty much takes into account a blend of different categories of talents from: freelancers, permanent staffing, seniority, multilingual, local and distributed.

After seeing it all, we believe every company or entrepreneur in Africa would need both a team of a smaller core permanent team member which is smaller in size for better control, with freelancers supporting the core team. The workforce is rapidly changing. As people embrace the opportunity to freelance and work remotely, businesses can adapt their hiring practices to the demand of the market. Hiring freelance talent takes your company and product to new heights. By making small, smart hiring changes, your business can see a big impact that contributes to its economic health, longevity, and success in any product market.

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