6 Ways to Build a Business or Work on the Internet in Africa

I have to dispell a myth first. The myth is that it’s easy to make money online. It is not. However, it is in many ways easier to do than doing it offline. The opportunities, if you’re willing to commit and work, are much more than you have offline in the physical space. There are fewer hurdles to overcome just to get started with an online revenue

I’m going to explain what you can do to earn online or to build a business on the internet. I’m also going to give examples:

1. eCommerce – Sell something physical

If you already have experience selling things then you can use the internet to sell more of that thing. This could really be anything from arts and craft pieces to selling a service that you provide physically like mowing loans and installing satellite dishes. The whole point with the internet is that it allows you to do 2 things that are otherwise difficult to do without it:

  • Allows you to reach many more people across a larger area that you could reach with a physical shop. You could even reach customers in a different country
  • Allows you to get paid over the internet for your product and you can send it to your customer. You could get paid via PayPal, and in particular smaller countries like Zimbabwe, there are payment processors like Paynow in Zimbabwe or even EcoCash.

Examples:

  • Techzim in Zimbabwe sells mobile phones

2. Create content and put adverts against the content.

If you like writing about a certain subject you could do this to create an opportunity to earn online.

You don’t have to find these adverts yourself, there are ad networks that will put ads against the content. This is admittedly the slowest way to earn money using content because adverts only start paying well (enough to sustain you the creator to do it full time) after you start getting a lot of people reading the content. This means you will need to work hard to get people to know your website or app.

Examples: Techunzipped

3. Create content and ask people to pay to access it. Web or WhatsApp

Advertising is not the only business model for content. You could also ask your readers to pay you to read the content.  This can be done on a website or you could do so using WhatsApp as your means to deliver your content.

I should say though that if you use WhatsApp, as the subscribers to your content increase, it will become difficult to manage everything- payments, delivering content and ensuring that your readers all get a good service. You will have to adapt and consider getting professional services to manage.

To accept payments on the web you could use payment processors like Paypal and membership management like Memberful.

Examples: ZimboKitchen (WhatsApp content distribution)

4. Make videos that people would like to watch and put them on YouTube

YouTube is increasingly the way that most people consume content, especially people below 30 years of age. Content ranges from instructional videos, media, music, short film (so-called skits) and even watching games.

The great news is that where, in the past, one had to have good professional video production equipment to get started, this is no longer the case. One can make a video using their phone to get started at least and buy equipment as they go – especially with their audience growing and money starting to come in.

One can make revenue with video in two ways:

  • Get brands to pay you to feature their products in the video
  • Have YouTube ads show on the content

It really doesn’t have to be YouTube, videos can be posted on other platforms too such as SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Examples: Bustop TV

5. Work for someone remotely or freelance

Another opportunity that the internet opened up is working remotely. That and freelancing, which is actually a different thing.

Now that access to the internet is global, there are companies especially in Europe and North America who are actively looking for people to work from them from wherever they are. This means that if you have the skills, you don’t really have to travel to the US anymore to work for a US company, you can work for it remotely from your home.

This is a growing phenomenon and there are now websites dedicated to listing such jobs. Here are the most popular websites:

As you can probably tell imagine, most of such jobs are technology-oriented and generally service type skilled jobs such as Web Developer, App Developer, Designer, Draftsman, Architect, Data. However, there are also Writer, Editor, Digital Marketing, Sales, Legal, and even HR and other such traditional jobs that can now be done remotely.

Some of you may be worried that you don’t have these skills. Who says they can’t be learned. There are many ways to learn a new skill online. Technology jobs especially have many platforms for learning. One such powerful platform is freeCodeCamp. Like I said above, you have to be committed to doing this so you have to be committed to learning a new skill and finding a new job which could pay upwards of US $2,000 a month and even more.

6. Create something useful

If you have some skills, you create an app or website that offers a useful service that someone is willing to pay for.

It could be an app helping people solve something in their lives like understanding better how much money they are spending on EcoCash and budgeting better. It could be an app that helps them pass their provisional drivers license. It could be an app that helps them compare prices so that they can always buy from the lowest priced shop near them. It could one that helps them contribute to a good cause near them.

If you don’t have the skills to create the app yourself, you could learn how to (see 5 above) or you could team with someone that knows how to build apps while you focus on other aspects of the business like marketing and strategy.

ExampleEcoLedger

I’d like to continuously improve this article so that it’s as help as ever for people that want to understand more how the internet can become a source of livelihood or a thriving business for them. Please let me know your feedback in the comments

Why web hosting is expensive in Africa (The Zimbabwe case)

This article is about Africa in general but to make my point I’ll use Zimbabwe as this is where I stay. However, the situation is the same in most of Africa because the underlying problem is similar. I have to say however there are a few countries where the situation has changed, and South Africa is one of them. Kenya and Nigeria also seem to be changing.

Let’s get into it

Most of the websites in Zimbabwe are hosted outside the country. This website, for example, is hosted in the United Kingdom.

This is because it’s generally cheaper to host one’s website outside Zimbabwe than inside. Zimbabwe is expensive in 3 ways:

  • The price tag for web hosting. That is much you pay per month
  • The uptime. Also referred to as availability – this is how much your website will be accessible to the public. If your website is down 10% of the time, then we say that it has 90% availability.
  • You need to have some technical skills to set up your website. Compared to hosts such as WordPress.com, GoDaddy and others, to host a website with ZOL Zimbabwe, for example, you really need to know what you’re doing technically just to get going.

1. Price For Web Hosting

Here’s a comparison of the prices for one of the most popular hosts locally (Webdev) and one of the most popular hosts internationally (GoDaddy)

 Webdev (Zimbabwe)Godaddy (International)
The price tagUSD 30USD 8
Number of websites11
Storage/Disk Space10GB100GB
BandwidthUnlimited (T&Cs apply)Unmetered (T&Cs apply)
Free domain for first yearYesYes
Free emailyesyes
Databases3unspecified

It is important however that if getting USDs is not easy for you, the local host has an option for you to pay in the local currency equivalent.

The high price of web hosting is generally because of reasons in 2 but there’s another separate reason which is economic. The number of customers looking for local web hosting is still very low which means right now when a company invests in having a good hosting package, they’re going to have to spread those costs over a few customers.

In the end, not many companies are willing to invest in something that not many people will afford. Or, put another way, not many companies are willing to invest on a bet that they’ll be able to convince enough people to start hosting locally. It’s a chicken and egg. Someone has to put their money to change the balance and so far no one seems to have.

2. Uptime

As mentioned already, the uptime is about the percentage of time that your website is accessible (or as they call it in tech “up).

Zimbabwe still has a lot of issues in terms of ensuring that website are always up. Here are a few:

  • ZESA, the national power utility does not generally provide power 247. This means that your web host has to provide their own power when ZESA blacks out. This is part of the reason why hosting priced more in Zimbabwe – it is because it also costs the hosting company more to keep things up. Outside Zimbabwe, blackouts are not common which means that even though the hosting company would invest in backup power solutions, the number of times the backup actually is needed is lower. The lower number of switchovers translates to better stability and uptime.
  • Backup power might not always work. In addition to the national power utility being unpredictable, Zimbabwe also has fuel supply problems which means if the hosting company relies on generators, they might not have the fuel when they need it.
  • The technical skills needed to keep websites up are expensive. People with technical skills have generally fled to South Africa and other countries globally to work there. Where a hosting company is lucky to have some skills, the employees demand high pay. This then contributes to the high cost of hosting.
  • Even if your hosting company has competent technical people, not all ISPs in Zimbabwe have them. This means that if an incompetent techie at ISP A misconfigures their network and they accidentally impede access to your hosting company’s network, that ISPs customers will not be able to access your website. While this can also happen to internationally hosting websites, the likelihood is lower and if it does happen, it is likely to be detected and corrected much sooner as it would affect many people.
  • Hosting equipment and its spare parts are paid for in Forex and Zimbabwe is going through a forex crisis so your hosting company may not always have access to the spares equipment they need to keep things up. Where they are lucky to have a way of getting the forex, it’s through the black market, which generally drives up the cost of hosting.

3. Technical skills

This is pretty self-explanatory so I will not break it down further.

 

Happy to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below so we can discuss how these problems can be solved

Learn how to make your own website

To build your own website you, basically need to do the following:

  • Learn the simple two languages you need to make the actual website
  • Learn about hosting a website

In this article, we’ll focus on learning the two languages. There are 2 platforms we recommend to learn the skills needed in making a website. These skills, by the way, can be learned in just a few days if you dedicated the time needed.

W3Schools

Use one of the internet’s oldest and simplest programming learning platforms called W3Schools.

freeCodeCamp

You can watch this free Full Course on YouTube video by freeCodeCamp