Digital economy key to the youth as job cuts loom

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 00:00 |
East Africa Portland Cement. Photo/Courtesy

Liliosa Mbirimi Muturi 

The Kenyan job market is witnessing technology disruption. Some top-tier institutions conduct massive job cuts at a time when a staggering seven million youth are grappling with unemployment, according to a 2018 survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. 

Reasons given for these layoffs include economic instability, outsourcing, merging of companies and the adoption of new technology. 

For instance, Stanbic Bank announced  plans to lay off more than 200 workers, citing digitisation of roles as a major contributing factor. 

East Africa Portland Cement also sent home close to 1,000 staff, a move attributed to stiff competition in the industry, as well as lack of sufficient funds, which has impeded the firm’s operations.

Letting go of workers is thus seen as a viable measure to contend with the rising costs incurred in labour and production.

The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2030, Africa will have the largest workforce in the world, with more than 15 million youth projected to enter the job market each year, for the next three decades.

While this is a promising forecast, the unemployment crisis in Kenya will continue to swell if something is not done to reduce the skills gap that low income and marginalised areas face.   

Now more than ever, it is crucial for the country to harness skills of its digital-savvy youth to enable them engage in income-generating activities. 

A survey conducted by Internet World Stats in 2018 indicates that Kenya is leading Africa in Internet penetration at 83 per cent. 

Kenya is seen to be fast moving towards a digital economy,  though not at the required pace according to the 2019 World Development Report, which seeks to explore how the nature of work is changing as a result of advances in technology today.  

Evidence shows that the digital economy is growing fast and has enormous potential. 

In view of this, it is imperative that the government continues to facilitate growth in Kenya.

In May,   President Uhuru Kenyatta  launched the Digital Economy Blueprint, which presented a framework to improve Kenya’s and Africa’s ability to leapfrog economic growth, including massive investment in fibre-optic cable infrastructure. 

High speed internet

Consequently, the venture has enabled better connectivity, allowing more young people, including those in rural areas, to access high speed internet and hence pursue both local and international jobs from global companies looking to outsource.

It is in this regard that leading enterprises such as Samasource, whose Nairobi office boats more than 2,500 youths training data and validation for Artificial Intelligence,  have embraced the impact sourcing business model. 

Samasource’s learning and development programmes equip youths who account for over 50 per cent of the Kenyan population with the relevant digital skills to deliver high-quality training data for artificial intelligence. 

The skills help workers launch long-term careers, ensuring their inclusion in the future job market.

Kenya’s Secondary School Practical Open-source Curriculum (SPOC), which trains high school students to code, is also a step in the right direction. 

Equipping youth with technical skills will help them prepare for the future work that is already upon us.

In addition, soft-skills training is necessary so tomorrow’s workforce can take on responsibilities in technology-based enterprises, as well as various other employment and entrepreneurship opportunities the digital economy will create.  

With a digitally prepared youth population, it is feasible for Kenya to curb unemployment and secure a future for this young generation.

More so, enhanced  are the chances of achieving the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, if we invest in making sure our youth thrive in the fast-paced digital economy. - The writer is Marketing & Impact Manager at Samasource Kenya

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