Who Needs White-Collar/Blue-Collar Jobs? Africa’s Youth Is Ripping The Collar Altogether

By  |  May 2, 2019

As a popular saying goes; “If you want to make it in life, move away from your home town.”

Growing up, i spent my days in a very quiet, small village in the interior parts of Baringo County. And by small, I’m talking of one then did not even have a filling station. Everybody knew everybody, it would be easy to spot a stranger. Most of my entire family tree was only a couple of miles down the road. Time seemed to pass a bit slower in this neck of the woods. My childhood days in this small town was no doubt, memorable and fun.

After being so for close to 20 years, i had gotten so comfortable: the down-home cooking, the daily routine had become a part and parcel of me. On one morning a year after I graduated from college, it hit me that I needed to move out of home and go find a living for myself. It is then that I packed my belongings and left for the city.

On reaching the city, the hunt began. I looked for a job literally everywhere: online, walking to every office I could reach. Job-hunting is actually a daunting task that requires patience, dedication and persistence. What kept my hopes alive as I went out to look for work every day, was the optimism that one day, i would receive that magical call.

After months of hustling and tussling, an opportunity came and seized it. I finally got a job. Though leaving the bubble of the comfort of my hometown was no easy feat, it turned out to be a good decision.

The thought of it could be scary and so many youths are who are stuck in their homes because there are no jobs. They are afraid to leave because they can’t fend for themselves just yet. For me, the experience after leaving home was a rollercoaster full of ups and downs.

But for many youths in Africa, their scenario is not the same. Finding a job has become almost impossible. For most countries in Africa, it has become a case ‘who do you know?’ to find a job that would end up paying peanuts. Corruption and nepotism have taken centre stage, and getting even a USD 500.00 paying job has become a nightmare.

With this kind scenario, many have been pushed to the worst with some opting to return to their roots to do menial jobs. This is despite giving it everything in school and getting good grades. The saying; “hard work pays” has almost lost its meaning as it hardly pays these days.

Gone are the days when one would work hard, pass in school, join campus, graduate then get a good job. After all the struggle, people get into the depressing job market, many of whom end up getting underpaid and overworked.

Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high in Africa. The phenomenon of unemployment in the continent affects over 32 million young people and the situation will worsen due to the strong gap between population growth and employment opportunities. The most dramatic thing is that most of the jobs available, often border on exploitation, not to mention the more dignified ones, have become very rare. So many Africans face long-term unemployment.

Several factors have been attributed to youth unemployment rates. A financial crisis, for one, often affects the quality of the jobs available to the youth. Skills mismatch, inadequate entrepreneurship, and life skills education, lack of access to capital, the digital divide and corruption are among the leading causes of youth unemployment.

Many African governments and international industry players are struggling to find a solution to this major challenge that has slowed down economic growth. The lack of jobs and desperate need for money has pushed many youths to do the unimaginable. Some have engaged in robbery, and other illegal/immoral activities, while others have been lured into joining terror groups.

And then, there are others who have looked everywhere for so long, only to find a means of livelihood on the internet. Here are a number of jobs that have gained wide popularity among the African youth and are now viewed as ‘jobs’ today. The youth have taken up these jobs and many of them are earning good pay from them.

Social Media Influencing In Africa

Social media influencing is simply a marketing term that describes an individual’s ability to impact other people’s thinking and choices online. The more influential a person is, the more appeal the individual has to companies or business people in general.

Influencing has unexpectedly gained quick traction in Africa. Africa is a place where people are not normally early adopters of products. The majority tend to lay back and often catch up with a trend when others have long adopted them.

The term “influencer marketing” increased by 325 percent in Google searches over 2017 making this the fastest-growing online acquisition method of the year.

While this career did not exist a few years back, now two-thirds of marketing departments are looking to increase their budget for influencer marketing. It is estimated that there are more than 1 million “influencers” in the world, that speak to 84 billion accounts, shaping viewer opinions and purchasing patterns through videos, pictures, tweets, and ‘stories’, among other ways.

Influencers are different from celebrities and politicians in that they gain influence through social media platforms. They grow an authentic voice that speaks to the youth especially.

The biggest platform for influencer marketing is on Instagram. 2017 saw a whopping 12.9 million brand sponsored influencer posts. And that number is estimated to double or even triple as the internet grows. Twitter and YouTube influencers have grown in number too.

Today, brands are lining up wanting to be associated with popular social media personas. The high demand for these influencers has created a booming industry where middlemen are popping up in the name of agencies. Their work is to match companies with appropriate influencers.

Unlike celebs, influencers are normal, everyday people. They are people who have a passion and share with the world. Be it cooking, fashion, comedy, or gaming, the list is endless. People relate more with influencers as they are perceived as ordinary, down-to-earth people.

By just posting about their passion on social media, influencers have gained immense internet popularity, giving them a chance to shape and influence audience opinions on matters through blog posts, videos, pictures, tweets, and so on.

Three-quarters of the youth spend plenty of time online and especially on social media. Most of whom trust social media influencers’ opinions over traditional celebrity endorsement. It is a good avenue to reach the young generation who have mostly remained unreachable for a long time.

Even though the power of word-of-mouth recommendation has long been recognized, influencer marketing has proven to take this to a new level.

Influencers are considered as leaders who stir and generate conversations through succinct and concise wrap-ups, drive engagement, and most importantly set trends amongst a receptive audience.

Influencers normally have an outstanding rapport with their followers often because they tend to establish expertise in niches that appeal to a hyper-targeted audience. Influencers drive the hashtags, the critical conversations, and the overall trends.

The internet has transformed the way brands go about their marketing campaigns. The advent of social media has drastically changed how people consume media content. Today, global internet users spend roughly 135 minutes, on average, surfing social media networks daily. This has pushed brands to make good use of that time and screen space to promote their services on social media.

Street Art/Graffiti

For a long time, graffiti was illegal in most African countries. For some, it is still not legit work. Most countries have, for a long time, considered it an act of vandalism and put stiff penalties for ‘offenders’.

In some countries, it is widely associated with gang activity whereby criminal groups indicate the areas they circulate by painting specific symbols on walls and other structures.

I remember the days when graffiti was a disfigurement people would scrub off. Years later, no longer edgy, on the contrary, it is a legit means through which businesses compete for eyeballs. It remains a very effective, eye-catching method businesses employ to grab people’s attention.

Today, it creeps along alleyways, blooms across fences, and flourishes on flyovers and underpasses. Ninety percent of Nairobi buses have artistic graffiti on their bodies. It has become increasingly rampant in many cities across Africa. When you walk down the markets in Jerusalem, shops and in Somalia, In Egypt, Downtime Cairo has become the place of creative graffiti artists.

  • Egypt

Downtown Cairo has become the place of creative graffiti artists. These artists mostly draw famous icons of Egypt such as Mohamed Salah, Umm Kulthum, Naguib Mahfouz and many others. The Egyptian government has been very supportive of graffiti as an art and they have even allowed students to draw and paint the walls of the Opera metro station with Egyptian icons.

  • Kenya

Kenya’s graffiti scene is booming. The most evident form of graffiti is on public service transport vehicles popularly known as ‘Matatu.’ Owing to the bold graffiti on ‘matatus’ they have become iconic on the busy streets of Nairobi.

Graffiti artists make ‘Matatus’ so loud with new custom designs covered in flashy colors, and state-of-the-art entertainment. The more glitzy and eye-catching a Matatu is, the more prominent it becomes, hence attracting passengers.

The graffiti art can cost a Matatu owner between USD 200.00 to USD 2.5 K, depending on the kind of work and materials used. While the cost seems hefty, it is always worth it as it can be easily earned back once the Matatu starts operating. People will pay more to ride in a custom Matatu covered in graffiti than ride in a plain Matatu.

Street art is also very common in Nairobi. You’ll spot a lot of graffiti on walls as you walk across the streets and even in estates. One that stands out is a portrait of Lupita Nyong’o on the outside wall of The Godown Art Centre

  • Somalia

If you visit any major city or town in Somalia, chances are that you will come across the colorful artworks that dot the walls of both private and public establishments.

These painted signs are the work of skillful artists, who in broad brushstrokes, advertise the goods and services offered at different business outlets. These include the availability of electronic appliances, vehicle spare parts, beauty products, foodstuff and beverages, and the sometimes graphically-drawn dental, medical, or circumcision services.

Most Somalia businesses have long abandoned shop signs, they are now using quirky graffiti to lure customers. Most major cities in Somalia have walls dotted with colorful artworks. These artworks mostly advertise the goods and services offered at different business outlets.

  • South Africa

Graffiti artists In South Africa have always been used to being chased away by city authorities, but the tide is turning, especially in Johannesburg, where the city is working with the artists. Graffiti is finally coming of age in South Africa as it is now being slowly accepted as art.

Graffiti has made businesses to go viral as it creates continuing conversation and promotes interest in businesses. It is highly visible and eye-catching. Due to its bold nature, it attracts attention, especially when placed on busy crosswalks. A number of businesses have opted to go the graffiti way as it is mostly seen as an art form rather than an advertising vehicle.

The business is now widely being embraced and practiced by so many youths. Art is now viewed as a career where people earn a living as opposed to a hobby to engage in when not so busy.

Online Writing

The chances of getting employed on the continent continue to grow slimmer with every graduation ceremony that happens in Kenya. According to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, it takes a Kenyan university graduate an average of five years to secure a job in Kenya today.

Despite the tough times, the internet has kept many youths somehow afloat with the opportunities it offers. Many jobless youths spend time working online by doing writing jobs online today. Some of whom, do it to pay bills as opposed to writing for passion. The activity which is largely viewed as a survival means has seen many thrive.

The many who do not succeed in the scramble for the few decent employment opportunities after their campus days have flocked the academic writing market. This avenue has come in as a blessing for them as it provides employment to most youth, even as their actual, hard-earned academic knowledge is not put to use.

Online writing jobs are normally paid per hour or per article based on the kind of work done. The more articles one does, the more money one fetches.

Vlogging And Blogging

As internet penetration continues to grow in Africa, blogging on the continent has enjoyed explosive growth. Blogging has made it possible for Africans to create and come across content they relate better with.

For a long time, online content has revolved around western culture. The explosion of internet use has, however, changed the narrative as content generated on the web is now specific to African culture and lifestyle.

Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and the diaspora have produced many curators of fashion, entertainment, finance management, and lifestyle, who are positively shaping the African story.

Blogging and vlogging have given a voice to many Africans who would’ve otherwise not been heard, and given content to an ever-growing audience that was once neglected.

Anyone can have a blog or a vlog and share whatever content they want to today. Some create content for fun while others do it for a livelihood.

Blogging is basically writing to communicate, whereas, vlogging is the use of video to communicate. Today there are so many blogs and vlogs on the continent. Vloggers and bloggers have become very important people in today’s society. They set trends, spur conversations, and some earn a living through brand endorsements. It has, over time, grown to be a career in itself.

Meme Creation

Many will agree that internet memes have become part and parcel of today’s life. Even in a very busy schedule, people find themselves opening their phones just to see the latest memes. Nothing has become more accessible and widespread like the meme epidemic. Memes serve as an expression of people’s opinions and emotions.

Internet memes consist of a combination of image and text like this Grumpy Cat meme, but also as photos, videos, GIFs, and hashtags.

Despite being quite a simple thing to make, internet memes are humorous, satirical, or ironic, which is a key part of what makes them appealing and encourages people to spread them.

Today, the internet is awash in memes. We live in a day and age where people make a living from making memes. There are sites where people visit just to see memes and some others which people visit and pay subscriptions just to see these memes.

When done correctly, meme marketing can be very successful. Since memes are widely shared because they are funny, brands now custom make memes tailored to their brand.

Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), Cooperative Banks of Kenya, and Safaricom are one of the popular local companies which widely employ the use of memes in their social media posts to get engagement and gain more followers.

As the internet age continues to advance, more and more jobs are born. All that is required is creativity and aggressiveness. Few years ago, so many jobs did not exist careers like the social media influencing, social media manager among others were not even thought of but with time, they have emerged and grown. With the tough economic times experienced in most parts of Africa coupled with joblessness, the youth also continue to venture into the entrepreneurial space and the trend is anticipated to grow even further in the days to come.

Featured Image Courtesy: Amazon UK

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