By Mr. Sentinel
The hustle and bustle of life in Nairobi can mould a boy into a man and squeeze a coward’s family jewels until he starts bothering his mother upcountry to send him something for supper. No wonder they say that if you can make it in Nairobi, then you can survive even the longest hot spells in Sahara Desert. It took Njogu a whole seven years to realize that he had no place in the world of Electrical & Electronics Engineering, a course on which he holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nairobi, after which he decided to trace his roots back to freelance academic writing. Having been introduced to the venture by a friend while he was in his second year at the university, he abandoned it after graduating to hunt for his dream job all in vain. Nairobi life opened his eyes that he now owns 18 academic writing accounts, and has turned the living room of his two-bedroom house in Nairobi into a workstation from where willing academic writers work under him. His earlier struggles and career journey reflect the reality that has struck thousands of graduates in Africa, most of whom now earn a living out of academic writing.
Indeed, Beggars Can’t Be Choosers
It must have pained Mahatma Gandhi so much that he eventually said “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” In this regard, it is easy to see why Africa’s economy is lagging behind the rest of the world despite its wealth of resources.
In Kenya alone, public and private universities, Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, and national polytechnics collectively churn out over 100 000 graduates annually. Sadly, there are limited job opportunities, which are only meant for the lucky few, who have godfathers somewhere at the top of the social ladder, and those who have enough guts to quote the price tags attached to such jobs. As for the poor graduates branded “half-baked” by the employers (to justify why they hire clandestine lovers and their friends’ friends and relatives), survival of the fittest and a hand–to–mouth existence now defines them. The same case applies to other African countries whereby capitalism has become a deadly weapon for controlling the masses. In fact, professionalism is now waning and the remaining escape route for the 21st century graduate is freelance academic writing. A field initially dominated by Ukrainians, Australians, and Indians, Kenyan and Nigerian graduates currently seem to be at the forefront of this change of perspective in Africa, and more South Africans and Ugandans are gradually entering the fray.
The Employer Overseas
Credit to the man or woman who realized that the whites can neither matriculate nor graduate without academic writing help of some sort. Various companies now offer these services, which they sub-contract to writers at a smaller fee, averagely $4.
“Some of them are goldmines; they can pay as high as $15 per page depending on the complexity of the work and the corresponding academic level,” Njogu reveals.
Nevertheless, one must successfully pass a couple of tests to open an account and painstakingly complete assignments to ensure long-term cooperation with the employer(s) overseas. Some of the reputable companies offering academic writing assistance include Uvocorp, Bluecorpservice, Academic Experts, Writers.Ph, Essayshark, and Writerbay among many others. Whether the students’ tutors know the existence of these companies is a mystery, but the freelancing world is expanding for each unfolding second, and this means there is nothing the instructors can do about it. All in all, if the work of an undergraduate in an African university can earn someone a master’s degree in the U.S. or the U.K., then only one thing is certain – African graduates are not half-baked.
Many freelance academic writers remain wary of government intervention as far as online freelancing is concerned. For instance, earlier this year, the Kenyan government launched the Ajira Digital Project in partnership with the Ministry of ICT, the Rockefeller Foundation, and KEPSA. Its four primary objectives were to:
- raise the profile of online work in Kenya,
- promote a mentorship and collaborative learning approach to finding online work,
- provide Kenyans with access to online work, and
- promote Kenya as a destination for online work.
Nevertheless, the project was received with varied opinions, and many academic freelance writers saw it as an attempt by the government to start taxing their hard-earned incomes.
“Why should the government suddenly start poking its nose into our businesses?” questions Njogu, adding that academic writing is a necessary evil committed by graduates out of desperation.
In fact, many online freelancers believe that their activities are secret, and that the government is unaware of their tax evasion. On the contrary, the government knows the existence of online jobs because it monitors virtually every activity and financial transaction done via the Internet.
The Humdrum of Typing, Proofreading, and Bypassing Geoblocking
According to Reagan, another Nairobi-based academic freelance writer and web designer, working overnight and balancing academic writing with social life is one of his biggest challenges. He also jokes that he has become good in virtually all disciplines on Earth, even those he had never studied since he was a child.
“Sometimes I deal with overbearing clients, but I have learnt to live with that,” he goes on. “What bothers most online freelancers is geoblocking whereby the websites in question region-restrict their jobs and hire only native speakers.”
According to him, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.
“No African online freelancer would forgive me for saying this, but many writers now use Virtual Private Network (VPN) applications to by-pass geo-restrictions and even earn the same amount as native speakers,” he pours it out.
He also goes on that the tech-savvy ones go as far as building personal cloud VPN riding on cloud services from companies like Amazon and open source software such as SoftEther VPN to avoid location errors when accessing geoblocked sites.
Were it not for academic writing, graduates like Njogu could’ve never made it in life. Unfortunately, the security of such jobs is not guaranteed and one can have his or her account terminated for various reasons, particularly poor quality of work and “indiscipline”.
“Your account is always at the mercies of the employers because you don’t sign any contract with them,” laments Njogu. It is also common to see many freelance academic writers stone broke during the “low season”, for instance during holiday breaks and summer breaks in the U.S. All in all, the venture is not a craze but a profession in the making, going by the number of African graduates who have turned it into a fulltime job.