Night journeys in Nigeria are typically dreary and unsafe, with gory stories of armed robbery and major accidents on the rise. Still, on a certain cold night in Aba, South-East Nigeria; a young man took his journey from his home-state to Lagos, the commercial nerve center of Nigeria, the consummate land of opportunities. He had heard about ‘Digital Jobs’ through an awareness campaign undertaken by Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), informing high potential but disadvantaged Nigerian youth about online work. PIN also provides training to help youth access online jobs. So Ike took his 9-hour journey, standing the entire length of the journey; without enough money to buy himself a seat, food or get an accommodation for his few days stay in Lagos. None of these was enough to deter a very determined Ike however.
“I knew deep within it was an opportunity that I could not afford to miss. I knew I had to do something,” Ike says in retrospect. “I borrowed N6 000 ($30) from a friend, but this was not even enough to cover my transportation and feeding expenses, much less accommodation. But I knew that coming across this opportunity on PIN website meant that this could be my future so I pursued it.”
Ike arrived Lagos in the wee hours of the morning and wandered a little around town trying to find his way. Finally, he arrived PIN HQ in Lagos as the first to arrive for the training, drowsy and bone-tired. “Still I tried not to sleep off at the reception just waiting,” he said. “I had to meet and befriend nearly everyone who walked in. I desperately needed an emergency friend to pass the night with. But this proved very difficult. Lagos people can be friendly but not very trusting. I even asked if there were any parties that night. I thought of hanging around such place till dawn. But I was told many parties do not grant free entry and the ones that do are not safe.”
After much persuasion and begging, a kind hearted young man who was also a part of training finally took Ike in for the night. The following day, Ike came back refreshed and threw himself completely into the training. “The high point for me through the training was when I realized that such simple skills as being able to use Microsoft-Word or Facebook were marketable skills. That people need some of the everyday skills that we take for granted and are willing to pay for them gave me the courage to become a successful online worker.” Ike and his ‘emergency friend’ Tony, remain best friends till today.
Ike’s trainer was Femi Bayode, a very successful online worker in Nigeria. Femi introduced Ike and the rest of the class to the E-lance platform and taught them things like how to write a winning proposal, paying attention to details (in terms of what a particular client requires of freelancers), and how to quote for payment as a beginners on the platform.
Armed with these skills, Ike travelled back to Aba following his training. He had no internet enabled device to work with, so he started by working from a nearby cyber café. Following a Skype interview with a potential client, he landed his first job barley two weeks after his training; managing advert placements on Craigslist. 21 people applied for this job but Ike was hired at the rate of $4 per hour as a beginner. Ike has since purchased a laptop and internet modem for his online work, and has paid back the $30 loan he took at the beginning of his journey to financial freedom.
Today, Ike is financially independent and able to support his siblings. His story reflects that of many Nigerian youth; unemployed and broke but who out of a basic need to survive and the curiosity common to youth, break the barriers of very limiting circumstances in order to seize the opportunity of online work. “I saw the light, and I took advantage of it,” says Ike. “Thanks to Rockefeller Foundation and PIN, now I am far better off than how I used to be.”