NAIROBI, KENYA: News that US online payment giant PayPal will no longer process payments by essay-writing firms that sell academic papers to university students has hurt thousands of Kenyans who offer the services as a source of income.
On Wednesday, PayPal announced it was "working with businesses associated with essay-writing services to ensure its platform is not used to facilitate fraudulent practices in education".
The BBC reported PayPal would, this week, contact essay-writing firms, giving them notice that they should "move their business elsewhere".
Last month, British Education Secretary Damian Hinds asked PayPal to stop processing payments for such firms since it is "unethical".
Media reports show 46 university vice chancellors last year wrote to Hinds, calling for the banning of cheating websites.
PayPal's latest move is good news to foreign universities who want academic writing websites banned. However, the development has hurt Kenyans who butter their bread through the essays.
Worth billions of shillings
The industry is worth billions of shillings globally, with a significant portion of the revenues generated sent to Kenya.
An investigative piece by British newspaper Daily Mail last month termed Kenya as the "hotbed where all the writing happens".
The industry has employed thousands of Kenyans across major towns. Most of the freelance writers live in Nairobi estates such as Roysambu, Kahawa West, Kasarani and Kahawa Wendani.
A freelance writer who spoke to Standard Digital on a condition of anonymity earns around a net of Sh120,000 a month during the peak season after paying her three assistants who in turn earn an average of Sh40,000 each.
"There's a lot of pressure from foreign universities to clamp down on academic writing firms but I will continue writing as I look for other businesses to invest in," she said.
A foreign essay company pays her an average of Sh600 for 300 words but she pays her assistants half the rate.
Some writers are, however, upbeat that PayPal's decision to withdraw services from essay-writing firms will not wipe out the industry.
A second freelance writer told Standard Digital, "There are other firms through which essay companies can disburse funds apart from PayPal."
He added the Kenyan writers would market their services directly to the foreign students without having to rely on the websites.