What Kenya’s gig economy needs to fulfil its potential
Benard chumo is about 30 years old, speaks Swahili and English, has a high school certificate, an abiding interest in tinkering with electronics and a smartphone that helps him connect to daily gigs as a carpenter.
The resident of Kawangware, Nairobi has learnt, over the two years that he has been doing gig work, to keep his expenses flexible because he may earn anywhere between Sh10,001 and Sh30,000.
His wife, a new entrant into gig work as a nanny-cum-household help, gets called in to do chores as well.
She enjoys the flexibility she gets from gig work, because she also has to look after their children.
If only, the couple says, there was some stability and continuity of income, they would be able to plan their lives around their work – acquire a better mobile device with a more reliable internet connection, train as a driver, obtain a car on a loan and join a gig platform.
More freelancers are entering the gig economy sectors such as ride sharing, professional services, handmade goods and household services and asset sharing.
However, lack of the requisite infrastructure hampers the availability of jobs.
Lack of access to digital connectivity is slowing down the growth of Kenya’s gig economy, a new report by Mastercard shows.
The white paper, titled: “The Gig Economy in East Africa: A Gateway to the Financial Mainstream,” shows that while the online gig economy in Kenya is worth Sh11 billion, employing 36,573 people, the offline gig economy is worth Sh2 trillion employing five million people.
“If each key player in the gig economy ecosystem comes together – from the platform, to the mobile industry and the payments provider – we can realize the true potential of inclusive, sustainable growth across the continent,” said Jorn Lambert, chief digital officer, Mastercard.
Some of these platforms include Fundis, Glovo, Bolt, Lynk, MamaFua, Uber, otherwise traditional gig workers have been dependent on word of mouth.
These platforms need smooth integrations with payment platforms for ease of payment processing.
This allows small businesses – from chicken farmers to tailors and fashion designers to run their office entirely from their phones, with access to opportunities and payments.
The automobile segment allows gig participation via companies such as Mobius Motors Kenya that manufacture vehicles, and Associated Vehicle Assemblers (AVA) that assemble vehicles and motorcyclists who may double as mechanics and tire repairers.
In Kenya, artisanal and general services like welding, electricians, capenters, housekeeping, nannying are the most common gigs founding on online platforms.
The whitepaper shows how gig work across East Africa is helping to drive economic growth by facilitating economic opportunities, improving livelihoods, and acting as a buffer against unemployment especially in Kenya, where youth unemployment is high.
About 5.13 million gig workers find jobs in agricul-ture, manufacturing, trade and hospitality, construction, transport and communications, and community, social and personal services.
For the gig economy to reach its full potential and unlock prosperity for millions of people, the digital divide must be bridged through connected devices.
Being self-employed with the freedom to work at an individual pace are part of why gig work is growing.
The paper, based on research from in-depth face-to-face interviews with gig workers in Kenya, shows that the gig economy is nascent, buoyant, and continues to grow, with almost two-thirds of gig workers joining the gig economy between 2017 and 2019.
However, like much of the informal sector, uncertainty is a fact of rife, with the biggest challenges being continuity of income.
Over half (55 per cent) said not knowing when the next gig leads to instability.
And close to 60 per cent of respondents said fluctuation in income from week to week is a cause for frustration.