- By Sam Fenwick
- BBC Business Daily Presenter
The BBC profiles three African women – a former shop owner, a teacher and a taxi driver – who have increased their incomes since embracing digital platforms.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced many people to rethink how they earn a living.
Independent research group Caribou Digital found that women in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana are benefiting from the low barrier to entry and flexibility of the digital economy – allowing them to earn their own money while retaining custody of their children.
Mrs. Tarit (pictured above) didn’t expect to double her income in nine months.
The Covid pandemic forced the closure of its baby clothes shop in Eldoret, western Kenya, and subletting properties through online platforms like Airbnb seemed like a practical interim measure.
But Tarit, 29, is now one of a growing number of African women who are finding new careers using platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and ride-hailing apps like Uber and Bolt.
She started her business with one property nine months ago and now owns seven — signing long-term leases and subletting on Airbnb.
“I make a lot more money than the business I had before the pandemic,” Tarit told BBC Business Daily.
The people who use your business are mostly tourists who book vacation accommodations and business people who prefer to stay in an Airbnb over a hotel.
“During Covid, many of my friends lost their jobs and started using digital platforms to earn money. Now they sell groceries online and work as delivery people,” said Tarit.
A typical day for Adzogble, 32, begins posting product ads on WhatsApp and Facebook from his home in Accra, Ghana’s capital.
It is taking advantage of one of the biggest changes in the African economy – the rise of online marketplaces.
She sells cell phones, air conditioners and televisions by advertising and posting in groups she created on WhatsApp and Facebook, in addition to existing groups such as the church group.
Mrs. Adzogble has given up a job teaching French to focus on her online business.
“It pays better than education. I can sell a piece and earn more than a month of study. I am a mother. I have to give my children the best possible education and they motivate me to conquer my financial independence”, she said.
For Mrs. Adzogble, building strong customer relationships is the key to making money online.
“That way they’ll buy from you and give you good feedback,” she said.
Mrs. Lawal, 34, works for ride-sharing companies Uber and Bolt in Nigeria’s main city, Lagos.
However, it hasn’t been easy – the single mother of four said that some men refuse to be led by a woman.
“When I started driving taxis in Lagos, all the men canceled their rides when I came to pick them up,” Lawal said.
“Lagos is a bit difficult and you have to be very strong to drive in the city. The men think I don’t have the strength. I have to convince them to get in the car”, he added.
The Caribou Digital study also found that many women who use digital platforms to earn a living are concerned about their safety.
“Many of the women we spoke to said they were sexually harassed when taking taxis,” lead researcher Grace Natabaalo told the BBC.
“While governments encourage young women to do this work, they must recognize the other side – that there are dangers and that they must be taken seriously by police and government services,” he said.
But Mrs. Lawal said the positives outweigh the negatives.
“Earning a living is important, but I also want to contribute to the wider economy by paying taxes. I want to grow and grow Nigeria’s economy,” she said.
- you can hearon here(in English) the three women tell their stories to Sam Fenwick.