Africa, like the rest of the world, has had to deal with lockdowns, supply chain disruptions, economic slowdowns, on top of pressures of domestic conflicts, volatile politics and skyrocketing prices.
Yet amid the seeming multitude of issues, the continent has been spurred to explore the gig economy; the popular free market system in which temporary positions are filled by independent workers.
And that has resulted in a dip in unemployment figures, significant improvements to income generation for individuals and companies, and a growing youth population being afforded new opportunities for earning.
Understanding gig work
For ages, full-time time, 9-5 employment was the measure of a person’s success. Indeed, the traditional view had always been — go to school, learn, graduate, and secure a good job.
But with increasingly fewer positions to go around as well as factories and places of traditional employment hiring only a fraction of educated graduates, a game changer was necessary.
Hence the rise in freelance, independent, on-demand or “gig” work that has upended the established work order and offered Africa and its citizens new opportunities for a better present and future.
Of course, gig work isn’t a new phenomenon. Rather, people have been taking on piecemeal work for pay since the dawn of time, and especially before the age of industrialisation.
Yet, technology and increased connectivity have contributed to the industry’s recent boom. And importantly, too, the costs involved in becoming one’s own boss, both in Africa and elsewhere, have significantly diminished.
Low startup capital and lucrative rewards
In a nutshell, a traditional business can be expensive to set up. There is capital to consider, for one, ditto funds needed for overheads, maintenance of stock and acquisition of business premises, not to mention staffing needs.
Where freelance gig work drastically disrupts the system is in tearing down these conventional prerequisites and ensuring that individuals who are intent on becoming business owners need little more than their own cars and/or homes.
For example, one only needs a vehicle to become a Bolt, Uber or Yango ride-share driver and take control of their own transport business. Similarly, a home or space to rent is all that is required to join online accommodation marketplace Airbnb and become a real-estate entrepreneur.
But best of all is the fact that gig work can be extremely lucrative.
Essentially, unlike traditional jobs with fixed remuneration, there is no limit to how much one can potentially earn from independent gig work. Indeed, the mantra for gig workers appears to be — work more, more smart and get paid more.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with a fixed income or regular work hours. Certainly, for generations, people put food on the table and took care of themselves and their loved ones thanks to this arrangement.
That being said, however, the world has changed a great deal over the past few years. And these days, there are many job seekers — youths especially — who place work-life harmony and even the ability to take on different and diverse part-time jobs as among the main considerations when making employment choices.
The original gig economy
Incidentally, as gig work has risen in popularity across the continent, with millions of people eking out a living via independent, freelance work in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and elsewhere, there has also been an increase in the number of people involved in direct selling.
That is hardly surprising, though, given the impact and impression leading companies like QNET have made in Africa in recent years and perhaps most notably, the fact that the direct selling industry’s focus on flexibility and freedom predates the gig economy.
Yes, direct selling laid the groundwork for the gig economy of today.
And what has served to attract some 6.3 million Africans, many youths among them, to become direct selling representatives is not only the appeal of being able to conduct business anywhere and anytime, but the growth and development available to everyone.
Sustainable advancement through direct selling
Direct selling offers a level playing field and small startup costs. And, as with the gig economy, it subverts the established norms of work and earning.
Most significantly, however, there is no denying that direct selling is the leader in career sustainability.
For example, in the case of QNET’s direct selling business opportunity, every distributor or independent representative (IR) is automatically the CEO of her/his enterprise and is granted the ultimate say concerning running and scaling their business.
This means that there is no chance of a budding entrepreneur remaining just a ride-sharing or food delivery driver as is the norm with gig work. Rather, the opportunity is ever-present for IRs to rise through the ranks and become sales superstars.
Additionally, there are avenues for personal development, which direct selling companies tend to carry out via training, mentoring and support.
Entrepreneurship, to be honest, can be a lonely journey. And what is particularly unique to direct selling, and organisations like QNET especially, is that business owners are never left to their own devices or allowed to feel alone.
Instead, the system places a premium on support and provides numerous platforms for entrepreneurs to be encouraged and spurred on by peers, successful veterans and with the aid of exclusive, targeted development programmes. In QNET’s case, there is even a dedicated training facility in Ghana for budding young entrepreneurs to be introduced to specialised courses.
A force for good
Earning opportunities, costs, and development aside, there is one other significant draw for youths to direct selling — the ability to make a difference in the lives of millions.
Direct selling, at the end of it all, is focused on relationships and transforming people and communities, either via personal recommendations of products and services that can better their lives or social impact work.
And it is this potential, perhaps more than anything else in the case of QNET and the company’s social impact arm RYTHM Foundation, that has seen thousands upon thousands of youths gravitate towards the industry.
In summary, thus, this is the time to take the plunge and become your own boss. And budding young entrepreneurs would do well to make direct selling their platform of choice.