As part of Caribou Digital’s ongoing focus on emerging platform livelihoods, and with the support of the Mastercard Foundation, we spoke to 30 young African platform workers in March, June, and September about the effects of the pandemic. These young men and women from Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana, the majority of whom are below 35 years old, make their living through digital platforms as ride-hailing drivers, delivery drivers, freelancers, e-commerce sellers, and on-demand laborers.

While pegged to the pandemic, these conversations bring out similar experiences — both positive and negative — captured within the 12 elements of Caribou Digital’s…


By Miranda Grant and Grace Natabaalo

Platform livelihoods hold great promise for making work more inclusive for young women. At the same time, they also present new expressions of gender differences in opportunity, uptake, earnings, and the ways work intersects with other areas of life.

These tensions are apparent in a participatory video storytelling project carried out by Caribou Digital and Nairobi-based Story x Design, with the support of Mastercard Foundation, in October 2020. …


By Miranda Grant and Grace Natabaalo

In October 2020, Caribou Digital and Nairobi-based Story x Design, with the support of the Mastercard Foundation, embarked on a participatory video storytelling project that put 11 young Africans who earn their livelihood from digital platforms at the center of their own story. For two months, the seven women and four men in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda shared their experiences as platform workers and sellers.

A key theme that stood out in these stories was the prevalence of “side hustles” — money-earning businesses, gigs, or jobs undertaken in addition to a person’s primary…


By Miranda Grant, Story x Design

In October 2020, Caribou Digital engaged my production company, Nairobi-based Story x Design, to produce a participatory video storytelling project that put 11 people who earn their livelihood from digital platforms at the center of their own story. We are passionate about innovative storytelling methods and were able to apply our experience in user-generated content and production skills training to design and implement the project.

This project was a continuation of Caribou Digital’s ongoing work on platform livelihoods. At the onset of COVID-19, Caribou Digital initiated a series of conversations with platform workers…


Conversations with Africa’s platform sellers

These conversations took place between March, 2020 and September, 2020

Social commerce and e-commerce are increasingly becoming popular for young people running micro and small businesses to sell anything online.

While e-commerce platforms such as Jumia and Jiji were intentionally designed to help African micro-entrepreneurs sell online, selling on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter are becoming the norm in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has presented several new challenges that are now threatening the existence of many of these small home-based businesses.

A Facebook/World Bank survey on the global impact of COVID-19 on small businesses was…


Conversations with Africa’s platform workers

These conversations took place between March, 2020 and September, 2020

Lynk is an on-demand local labour platform in Kenya, through which plumbers, painters, cleaners, carpenters and many other professionals secure paid work.

Stanley

When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Stanley, a cleaner on the platform knew that his work days were numbered. The offices he, and many others on the platform, regularly clean had closed. Even homes were no longer accessible. “Clients are too conscious and everybody is afraid to offer us jobs to clean their homes or offices,” Stanley told me in June.

Stanley was part of an incubation program…


Ride-hailing: Fewer customers, less income

Conversations took place between March, 2020 and September, 2020

Kwame (not his real name), 24, lives in Kumasi, Ghana. He started driving for Bolt just over a year ago. His plan was to make enough money to be able to continue his education beyond high school. He secured a car on hire purchase, and was paying it off weekly. All was going fairly well until the pandemic hit. Kwame went from making 25 trips per day, pre-COVID, to less than five. …


In 2018, Carol, then 24, joined the online freelancing platform Upwork as a marketing associate after the Ugandan company she had worked for didn’t renew her contract.

All was well until the coronavirus pandemic hit. As business slowed down around the world, Carol’s client on Upwork cut her weekly hours from 20 to 10, leaving her with less work and less income. Carol decided to use this downtime to upskill herself: She is taking online classes to learn Tableau, a popular data visualization tool.

Kwesi, 30, based in Ghana, has earned money as a virtual assistant on Upwork for the…

Grace Natabaalo

Grace is Caribou Digital’s research lead. She conducts research, creates content and collates insights for various projects.

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