How Nigerian freelancers working with international companies are navigating payment challenges

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October 18, 2022
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4 min read

The rise of the gig economy in Nigeria has brought with it a lot of opportunities. Several young Nigerians now enjoy the flexibility of working remotely with clients across the globe while earning in foreign currencies.

While this seems straightforward, it’s often the opposite particularly when it comes to getting paid for their work.

Cross-border payment has been a major challenge for freelancers in Nigeria for years, however, a growing number of fintech products are trying to solve this problem.

As part of our conversations leading up to The Fintech Summit 2022, we hosted a Twitter Space to understand how freelancers are currently navigating these payment challenges and what fintech solutions they use.  

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The speakers on the Space were Olamide Towobola, a freelance coach and founder of Gigsnet; Richard Oyome, COO & Co-founder of Geegpay and Raenest; Isaac Sixtus Chizaram, an interactive designer; and Gbenga Adebiyi, freelance coach and founder of Work Without Walls Academy (W3A). 

Here are some highlights from the conversation (edited for clarity and brevity):

For how long have you been freelancing and what has been your experience with getting paid?

Olamide Towobola: I have been freelancing for about 6 to 7 years. Things are a bit easier now, even though there are a few more loopholes that need to be solved. The transition has been very interesting and shows that there is still much more to come in the coming years for freelancers and remote workers.

Gbenga Adebiyi on his first payment as a freelancer: The first payment I received as a freelancer was in 2015 on Elance. That was before they became Upwork. It was one of the biggest platforms for freelancing. 

Back then working for a company based in Texas, USA, getting paid was an issue, so they decided to explore Western Union. I got paid, but it took 48 hours before I could access the funds. However, after my employers made subsequent payments, Western Union refused to process further payments because they deemed my account suspicious. 

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Are there still payment processing challenges and what are the causes?

Gbenga Adebiyi: I stopped having payment issues when he relocated from Nigeria. But receiving payments is still a challenge for freelancers in Nigeria due to limited options.

Why is it difficult for Nigerian freelancers to get paid before or after they have delivered their service?

Olamide Towobola: I would say ignorance because, I remember, in 2017 or 2018, I didn't even know that there was Payoneer. What was rampant then was PayPal. At that time, not all the features of Paypal were open to Nigeria, so you’d have to pass the backdoor to be able to get an account that would be able to receive funds in Nigeria. That also has its own disadvantages. 

So, it was a major issue for many people, but then many people didn't really know that there were other options that were much better than PayPal. Government policies have also made it difficult. 

Richard Oyome of Geegpay:  The reason why this problem stays unresolved for a long time is because of fraud. We know that fraudsters have messed things up when it comes to receiving payments abroad, and even for us at Geegpay, securing partnerships that would even make us provide better services. 

These banks will tell us that Nigeria is a risk region, and ask what we are doing to make sure that they are protected. Today, we spend a lot of money on KYC just so that people are not just gaming the system.

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How do you handle rejection from clients because you are Nigerian? 

Olamide Towobola: Over the years, I have built more confidence thanks to my experience and expertise. There is little you can do when it comes to that. Just be intentional and particular about your job delivery to retain your clients and get more referrals. Focus more on the things you can control. Hone your skills. 

What are some platforms freelancers use to process payment?

Popular platforms that remote workers and freelancers use are Payoneer, local bank domiciliary accounts, Grey Finance, Geegpay, Fincra, and a host of other fintech companies that offer virtual dollar accounts. Freelancers also receive payments through crypto. 

Gbenga Adebiyi: For Nigerian freelancers, the most common means to receive payments is Payoneer. Domiciliary accounts and Geegpay are among a long list of other options. 

Olamide Towobola: Payoneer enables transfers to local accounts. I also use Grey Finance, Geegpay and domiciliary accounts.  

Richard Oyome: Geegpay provides freelancers with foreign virtual bank accounts where they can receive payments for their work. They also provide some of the best rates in the market. 

The Fintech Summit 2022 speakers

The Fintech Summit 2022 by Techpoint Africa is coming up on November 29, 2022. The theme of the summit is ‘The Fintech in Everything,’ and it aims to explore how financial technologies are influencing various aspects of modern life, including cross-border payment. 

Geegpay is one of the sponsors of The Fintech Summit 2022, and they will be present to answer your questions about their platform can make earning as a freelancer more seamless.

To register for the summit, visit fintech.techpoint.africa

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