Kenyans working online pocket an average of Sh2,001 per hour, and Sh20,774 every month, an indication that the lot are earning above the minimum wage. This is according to a study by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) on digital and digitally enabled work in Kenya.
Commissioned by the Ajira Digital Program, which is a project of the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth, and conducted by Tifa Research in September 20, the study also revealed that the pay of online workers stands at Sh7,549 in a week compared to earnings per project which is Sh7,110.
The program is transforming lives of young people in a big way as it introduces the unemployed but skilled youth to the gig economy where they are able to create work for themselves and compete globally through multiple online work platforms.
“A key component in doing this work was the provision of the necessary tools such as training, and mentorship needed for the youth to work and earn an income with dignity. This study is a clear testament of the hard work that has gone into nurturing, growing, and positioning the Ajira Digital program as a change maker in how our young people access work and job opportunities,” said Joe Mucheru, the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth.
As economies continue to remain constrained, digital jobs might be the hope for the future. Most government agencies are embracing the program. The Judiciary, in collaboration with the Ministry of ICT, Innovation, is one branch of government that is embracing the program in a bid to create work opportunities for youth – 61 courts have been digitized through data entry, scanning and transcription of documents in 183 court stations and 7 tribunals.
Mucheru said 69,407 legal transcripts have been submitted to the Judiciary in addition to over 10,596 transcribed audio hours and 169,844 case files input in the
Case Tracking System.
“A total of 19,212,514 pages in 148,182 active case files have been scanned. Phase two of data entry and scanning is set to continue, targeting 194 courts in 34 counties and the creation of additional 1,400 jobs over a 6-month period,” he explained.
He noted that the program has also engaged some 50 “official partners” in addition to 35 linkage partners and who have enabled the project to link 37,851 youths to digital and digitally enabled jobs on more than 56 digital work platforms.
Carole Kariuki, KEPSA chief executive officer said that 63% of mature Kenyans nationally were aware of the digital gig economy and that awareness of the Ajira program had increased from 5.5mn people (which is 14%) in 2019 to 7.3mn (29%) in 2021.
“We are well on the way towards achieving the country’s objective of creating a globally competitive knowledge based middle income economy”, she said, adding that 79% respondents approved the government program.
The report notes that, at the moment 1,209,506 people (5%) of the adult population in Kenya are digital workers, rising from 638,400 or (3%) in 2019. Female workers accounted for 402,284 while workers between the ages of 18 to 35 made up 1,007,277 of the individuals doing digital and digitally enabled jobs.
In terms of basic or intermediate skills, the study estimates that there are 461,523 digital marketers, 141,021 transcribers and about 250,000 article writers working online in Kenya.
In terms of advanced skills, the country has 76,921 software developers and 64,100 data scientists working online. Other opportunity areas captured in the study under various skills categories include academic and scientific writing, transcription, virtual assistants, online research and surveys, coding, and data science activities.
The study notes that 31% of workers who have adopted digital and digitally enabled work prefer it because of lack of formal employment opportunities. At the same time, 21% prefer to work online due to flexibility and convenience of digital work and another 18% said it was because of the ability to work part time.
This is against the top 3 barriers to participating in digital and digitally enabled work, which were captured as expensive internet costs at 53%, lack of skills to participate in some digital platforms at (52%) and lack of access to WiFi or internet connectivity (21%).
Access to internet, prohibitive cost of internet, family barriers as primary caregivers, cultural barriers, cyberbullying, lower internet usage skills and competition with experienced local and international gig workers stood out as barriers specific to women.
The KEPSA digital business process outsourcing (BPO) pulse check with over 300 private sector players, across 29 counties across Kenya indicates moderate use of digital work platforms at 41.2%, led by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that outsource services through them.
Frequency of outsourcing
Currently the sector is characterized by low popularity and frequency of outsourcing. The trends show that older SMEs prefer the business process outsourcing model while younger SMEs are critically involved in digital outsourcing through platforms.
Besides encouraging local companies and public sector players to create digital work opportunities for young people, the Ajira program was to position Kenya as a choice labour destination especially for multinational companies.
The program in its 6th year, is being implemented by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance in partnership with eMobilis with funding from the Mastercard Foundation, under the Young Africa Works in Kenya initiative – and it seems to address challenges such as access to dignified work and infrastructure, training and mentorship as well as awareness. The project’s aim is to make the East African country a freelance hub and a global destination for digital work by the year 2022.