“Virtual Freelancing”: SOS Benin is helping to create a new generation of African digital entrepreneurs

Benin students in training

When there is a shortage of jobs in your geographic area, you can always create your own business and work virtually. In fact, 75 young people have already gone down this path paved by SOS Children’s Villages Benin – with great success.

According to the World Bank, young people represent 60% of all unemployed Africans. The International Labor Organization states that 70% of African workers are “working poor and have very vulnerable jobs". Young people in SOS Children's Villages' care face these challenges as well. Together with an external training provider, SOS Children's Villages in Benin proposes a solution: “virtual freelancing”.

"The younger generation is more willing to accept freelance work," says Salimane Issifou, National Director of SOS Children's Villages Benin. "We therefore cooperated with Learnio, a social enterprise providing accessible and affordable digital skills education enhanced by online mentorship.” 

Learnio was founded in 2014 and by now has already trained over 12,000 students worldwide. Yvette and Rodrigue, two young program participants from Benin, have already secured contracts at MasterWizr, an international service provider specializing in the creation of professional presentation documents.

An agreement between SOS Children’s Villages Benin and Learnio was signed in August 2020. The trainings are open to young people from SOS programs, as well as participants from the community. Training fees are covered for young people coming from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, overcoming inequalities.

Training approach

The training is based on a system of hybrid teaching, with both independent e-learning and live sessions in a physical classroom setting. For in-person classes, SOS Benin offers an IT lab to the participants, (established with the financial support of SOS Kinderdorf). In fact, continuous mentoring beyond the course is available to ensure the participant can really succeed.

Students in a class session

"There are several training formats," Salimane Issifou explains. "Online, face-to-face and even evening classes are offered. This allows participants to follow the courses according to their personal ability." For three hours per day over 14 weeks, three different training paths are offered to students, including: Graphic Design, Web development, and Digital Marketing. The program also offers classes in Business English and training on how to successfully start in the freelancing market. "The training is more practical than theoretical, which our participants highly appreciate."

Issifou adds: "In Benin, we have one computer training room with a capacity for 21 students. Since the beginning of the programme, we have had 55 young participants from SOS Children’s Villages programs and 20 young people from the community joining the training in different groups. Initially, even more than 300 people registered – but not all got a seat.

The students are mentored by an ICT Manager, an ICT Assistant and two successful young freelancers. Both freelancers are previous program participants and after attending the training, they were so good that we decided to include them among the mentors to gradually handover the training to them."

Students asking a question in class

Finally, Learnio also offers access to a social network platform, enabling the participants to collaborate with thousands of other experts and young professionals from all over the world about their newly developed skills and digital entrepreneurship.

“Remarkable learning opportunity”: Impact of Learnio in Benin

"Learnio is a remarkable opportunity," Issifou says. "We need to create job opportunities and are already looking at 52 job contracts young people could secure – 27 on national level, and 25 on international level, only for SOS youth." Out of the total 75 participants, more than 60 have already successfully completed the training and obtained a diploma.

The students’ positive feedback confirms the success of the program: 100% of the students are satisfied. Participant Hack agrees: "Thanks to Learnio I even became a mentor myself and can secure jobs from local and international customers."

Notably, young people who took part in this program show greater self-confidence, especially in the professional environment. Additionally, their English skills have significantly improved.

Next steps

SOS Children’s Villages in Benin and Learnio are ready for the next steps. The plan is to launch new training programs, giving more young people access to the freelance market.

Girl with laptop and cell phone

More funding is also needed to set-up additional digital (community) centers and computer labs that will extend the project to other SOS programs in the country, including Family Strengthening in Natitingou, Dassa, and Pacope Parakou.