Every year, half a million young Kenyans graduate from high school. Only a quarter will go on to university—the rest will join the workforce. In total, one million people enter the job market in Kenya every year. Many will have a high school diploma, some will be university graduates but sadly, most will not find jobs.

Kenya is no different from other countries in Africa. Poverty is reducing across the continent, GDP is rising—but jobs are still hard to find. Every year, 11 Million young people enter the workforce across Africa. But their skill, energy and knowledge will remain untapped.

Meanwhile, companies under pressure to increase shareholder value are also exploiting the Internet to increase productivity and efficiency. Many of these companies are using the internet to bridge the skills gap by taking advantage of online on-demand/freelance marketplaces. By making small pieces of work available to freelancers to complete online, companies are able to maximize efficiency and productivity.

Already, millions of pieces of work are made available online for freelancers and part time workers through marketplaces like upwork.com, mturk.com and freelancer.com. In fact, the online work is expected to make up 20% of global recruiting in the next four years.  In total, the market size for online work is estimated to be USD 4.8 billion in 2016, projected to generate USD 15 billion by 2020.

Ajira Digital Program

The Ministry of ICT in partnership with the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, the Ministry of Education and partners in the civil society and private sector have set up the ‘Ajira Digital Program’ to bridge the gap between skills demand and lack of jobs.

The program aims to introduce young people to online work and provide the tools, training and mentorship needed for young people to work and earn an income.

Objective

By December 2017, support 1 million young Kenyans to find and complete work online by:

  1. Raising the profile of online work
  2. Promoting a mentorship and collaborative learning approach to finding online work
  3. Providing Kenyans with access to online work
  4. Promoting Kenya as a destination for online work

Online work in Kenya

The bulk of online work is created by companies based in the largest economies of the world. But most of the work is completed by people living in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

Already, thousands of Kenyans participate in the world of online work. There are at least 40,000 Kenyans registered on Upwork, the leading freelance platform. Of these, about 10% are active workers earning a regular income from the platform.

There are also companies and NGOs based in Kenya that focus on the online work space. These include:

  1. Cloud Factory: a US based firm, started in 2010 with largest office located in Nepal. They have recently intensified their efforts to expand in Kenya recognising its potential for digital work delivery. They currently have 350 Kenyan workers on the platform and trained over 2,000 Kenyans.
  2. Crowdsource Africa: Provides a platform for international clients all over the world to access a ready scalable and flexible workforce in Africa. They recently partnered with Kericho county to provide digital jobs for the county. Crowdsource Africa have existing partnerships with numerous online platforms and provide a ‘virtual handshake’ for workers looking for online jobs. They have access to work for at least 5,000 workers.
  3. The Rockefeller Foundation: launched its Digital Jobs Africa (DJA) initiative in 2013 covering South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco. In Kenya, they worked in four counties, Mombasa, Kisumu, Machakos and Nairobi.
  4. ACWICT (African Center for Women, Information and Communications Technology): A Kenyan-based development organization has trained over 20,000 youth through the Digital Jobs Africa initiative. The training program teaches youth the skills needed to carry out digital work on the upwork.com platform.
  5. Homeboyz Foundation: partners in the Digital Jobs Africa initiate raised awareness on the opportunities in online work. Their campaign ‘Niko Job’ reached 2 million youth through campaigns on radio, Youtube.

Strategies

Existing initiatives demonstrate that there are three key factors needed to ensure online work programmes have a lasting impact:

  1. access to internet connectivity and devices
  2. access to training and mentorship
  3. access to dignified work

Access to internet infrastructure

In sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya is among the top five countries in terms of access to internet connectivity. By 2016, 87% of Kenya’s population had access to the internet. Most of the access to internet in Kenya is through mobile phone. But broadband connectivity is growing steadily—at the start of 2016, there were nearly 7 million broadband subscribers in Kenya.

The National Fiber Optic Infrastructure (NOFBI) runs through every county in Kenya. This network provides a backbone for broadband connectivity. But fiber services have a limited last mile reach into rural areas. To promote demand for internet in rural areas, the Ministry of ICT is providing public wi-fi connectivity at least one public centres in every constituency.

The Ajira Digital Programme will tap into the public wi-fi connectivity drive and ensure that the connected centers are also digital work training and information centers.

Access to training and mentorship

The Ajira Digital Programme will establish a network of trainers across the country. With a network of officers at Youth Empowerment Centers in each county, new online workers will have access to support, training, and mentorship.

This will ensure that freelancers and part time workers do not work in isolation—especially during the early days of their online work career.

The training program will not only provide skills to young people, but will also begin to build a culture of excellence and dedication in young Kenyans.

The Ajira Digital Programme will develop a responsive multi-layered curriculum that will be rolled out to counties and training institutions across the country. The program will cover how to find and complete digital work as well as social skills, work ethics and financial literacy that are crucial to succeed with online work.

This curriculum will be made available to Technical Institutions, Universities, training schools and individuals who want to create training material for online work in Kenya.  The curriculum will ensure that everyone who wants to provide training on online work has access to outlined learning goals and objectives to include in their course work.

Access to dignified work

Finding legitimate work online can be difficult. Unfortunately the internet is full of scams promising high paying work. Although the training will help young people distinguish between actual work and scams, it is important to provide young people attempting online work for the first time with easily accessible vetted work.

The Ajira Digital Program will seek to position Kenya to win work from multinational companies as well as promote local companies and public sector to create work for online workers. The government digitisation projects already create lots of viable microwork that can be completed by online digital workers.

By focusing on not just infrastructure, but also on training, mentoring and sourcing valuable work for workers in Kenya, the Ajira Digital Programme will demonstrate the ability of online work to transform lives on a large scale.

Benefits of the Ajira Digital Program

Economic benefit:
A young person completing low skilled work could earn about KES 100 per hour. If they work for three hours a day, they could earn about KES 17,000 per month. Current studies show that a young person in Kenya needs at least KES 7,000 a month to meet their very basic needs. With access to digital work, young people could start providing for their basic needs. The Acwit programme reports that most of the people they trained on online work spend up to 60% of their earning on education.

Access to digital work will build wealth and grow the middle class across the country. A larger middle class means more opportunities for businesses and direct growth of GDP.

Social benefit:
When young people have jobs and earn a living wage, they are less likely to participate in crime and destructive behaviour. This will improve the security of the country and promote positive national identity.

Political benefit:
By making work available in every county, the project will enhance national cohesion and integration and promote equitable development. The project will also realise the current government’s election promise.

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