Late last year the Foundation launched a series of collaborations to explore the potential for online work to expand the employment landscape for young people in Africa. In Kenya and Nigeria-two of the leading online work destinations in Africa, the Foundation worked with partners such as Paradigm Initiative Nigeria and Home Boys Foundation to raise awareness about online work, and connect young people to the tools and resources to build their skills.
When we started this work, we knew that in spite of this growing global opportunity, any African youth who hoped to gain from this new frontier would have to overcome many hurdles, including acquiring the skills that would allow them to successfully access online jobs, as well as access to the Internet and the devices necessary to access those jobs.
We also believed that with a combination of skills-building and facilitated access, a young person with determination and tenacity could reap the rewards of this new kind of work. The story of a young Nigerian, Ike, exemplifies both the challenges that need to be overcome and the reward for those who persist in their pursuit of this opportunity.
Night journeys in Nigeria are typically dreary and unsafe, with gory stories of armed robbery and major accidents on the rise. Still, on a certain cold night in Aba, South-East Nigeria; a young man took his journey from his home-state to Lagos, the commercial nerve center of Nigeria, the consummate land of opportunities. He had heard about ‘digital jobs’ through an awareness campaign undertaken by Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), informing high potential but disadvantaged Nigerian youth about online work. PIN also provides training to help youth access online jobs. So Ike took his 9-hour journey, standing the entire length of the journey; without enough money to buy himself a seat, food or get an accommodation for his few days stay in Lagos. None of these was enough to deter a very determined Ike, however.
“I knew deep within it was an opportunity that I could not afford to miss. I knew I had to do something”
“I knew deep within it was an opportunity that I could not afford to miss. I knew I had to do something,” Ike says in retrospect. “I borrowed N6 000 ($30) from a friend, but this was not even enough to cover my transportation and feeding expenses, much less accommodation. But I knew that coming across this opportunity on PIN website meant that this could be my future so I pursued it.”
Ike arrived Lagos in the wee hours of the morning and wandered a little around town trying to find his way.