Before now we used to outsource in our agency in London but when I came here and I actually outsourced to some people, I discovered that there was a better experience than outsourcing to countries like India where you have language difficulties or issues such as cultural differences.”
Ike Okosa founded eWorker in March this year to serve as a freelancing and outsourcing platform to connect the African tech-force with the world. Africa’s tech space has experienced tremendous growth, with rapid a number of talents rising into the global market. The attractiveness of the African technology industry has led to a number of Silicon Valley companies increasingly sourcing for tech talents from Africa, according to Ventures Africa.
Before coming to Nigeria, Okosa ran a digital marketing agency. When he came to Nigeria in 2015, he attended the Social Media Week. During his visit, he saw the opportunity to take advantage of the untapped network of African tech talents, which he found to be efficient and more cost effective. He said, “Social Media Week opened my eyes to the ecosystem, a number of skilled workers that I ended up using on a freelance basis.”
He added, “In the UK for instance, it would typically cost you £6,000 to hire a full stack developer with 4 to 5 years experience. Here in Nigeria, we are able to provide the same people with a similar experience for 60 percent reduction in the price. We provide for £2,000. So, there’s a reduction in the price.”
Okosa’s trip to Lagos in 2015 inspired the birth of his startup. He said, “When I got back to London after Social Media Week, I started putting up a plan to develop a platform to allow digital workers and software engineers and freelancers to be able to access job opportunities from outside of Africa. That way, it would help them not only earn a sustainable income but it would also actually make them earn a lot more than their counterparts that are actually here.”
“This year, we launched in March at Social Media Week. We held an event to create awareness about freelancing, outsourcing, and networking.”
How does eWorker work?
eWorker is split into three different sections. The first is the freelancer platform. This allows small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), entrepreneurs and more businesses to go online and find vetted freelancers that are project managed. “By having them project managed, we do not only vouch for them but we can ensure that the work is completed successfully which is different from other outsourcing platforms,” he said.
“On other outsourcing platforms, it is you and the freelancer and there is no buffering. So, if things go wrong, which they tend to a lot of times, you may end up losing your money, whereas with us, we ensure that you do not lose money.”
“With the freelance platform, we have an escrow system. So before a job is started, you state how much you are prepared to take for the job. The client pays directly to the platform. Once the job is completed satisfactorily, then the money is released to the freelancer.”
In addition, Okosa explained that there is the remote outsourcing aspect. With remote outsourcing, eWorker provides technicians- software engineers, developers and so on to companies outside of Nigeria that require those skill sets.
The third section of eWorker is training which Okosa describes as “grooming.” “We target those with experience. We look for the best people already in the ecosystem and then we groom them to be able to work with international companies.”
“It is very important to ensure communication and accountability are good. Having a certain standard is very important and that is why we groom them.”
Okosa says eWorker is only focusing on IT freelancing and outsourcing. “We want to be known as a specialist within the software development, IT space, so we didn’t want to focus on so many areas.”
About 70 percent of the work that is being requested is web design work. Behind that is graphic design, logo design, and social media management.
Freelancers earn as high as 500, 000 naira monthly (£1, 275) while the people employed on their remote platform earn between 400, 000 and 500, 000 naira (£1, 020 – £1, 275).
The platform in its short space of existence already has 580 freelancers with a wide variety of skills. Altogether, about 2, 500 people had registered but only 580 were selected having met the platform’s skill standards.
The freelancers are based around the continent. Most of the freelancers are currently based in Nigeria but the others are spread across other African countries like South Africa, Ghana, and Uganda.
Coming to Nigeria
For Okosa, moving back to Nigeria has been very tasking. “When you are in London, you have some preconceptions about whetherthings are going to work out when you come to Nigeria. Then, you start to learn. So, I feel I have had to be very adaptive, not only in the business itself but in terms of my thinking you have to adapt very quickly.”
“In terms of raising capital, we are still fundraising. So far, my team and I have bootstrapped everything. So, it has been a little difficult but by God’s grace, we have been pulling through. We also got some board members who have been opening doors.“
“People have been buying into the idea because it is something that people think makes sense. For example, people have been traditionally outsourcing to India for many years. It has changed the face of India, their GDP. However, you still have language issues. Here in Nigeria, things are moving very rapidly. English is the language of most Nigerians; time zones are very similar to that of the UK. It makes sense.”
“You can see from the number of companies that are coming into Nigeria even though it has slowed down recently. But, It just shows you the interest level of the Silicon Valley coming into Nigeria. They believe in the tech ecosystem here. So, you are only going to have more developers, more programmers, and more people within that digital space.”
Outsourcing in Africa
The adoption of outsourcing by African companies is still low. Most of eWorker’s jobs are from outside Africa. He said, “One of the things that I have come across speaking with some of the big organisations is that they can’t find the right technical talents. A lot of them go outside of Nigeria to look for talents. They go to places like London, America looking for people in the diaspora to come back and work for them here, which is very expensive and quite frankly is broken.”
“So, what we have started looking at is also providing that same pool of talent that we have considering we are providers of outsourced labour. In doing so, we are able to provide that to companies on a full-time basis. We are currently in the process of building the site for that.”
“I see us creating a lot of jobs. Initially, our plan was to create a million jobs. However, over the next two years, we would definitely create at least more than a thousand job regular job opportunities for freelancers. In terms of full-time employment, we would be looking to employ at least two to three hundred people within the next two years. After that, we are still going to be scaling. Our vision is to create jobs and provide access to opportunities that couldn’t easily be assessed by people in Africa.”