OPINION: Digital skills training is the future of work in Kenya
By Liliosa Mbirimi Muturi
The Kenyan job market has witnessed technology disruption first-hand. As some top tier institutions enact job cuts, others assist the country’s youth with skills training to thrive in the digital economy.
This comes at a time when a staggering 7 million youth are grappling with unemployment, according to a 2019 survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
Among the top reasons given for these layoffs are economic instability, outsourcing, merging of companies and the adoption of new technology.
For instance, Stanbic Bank recently laid off 88 employees under a voluntary scheme, citing the digitisation of roles as a major contributing factor.
East Africa Portland Cement Company also sent home staff and asked them to re apply for their jobs a fresh. This aimed at only retaining 600 out of the current 1,200 employees.
The decision attributed to stiff competition in the industry and a cash squeeze.
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 has estimated that by 2030, Africa will have the largest workforce in the world, and we’ll see 15+ million youth enter the job market each year, for the next three decades.
While this is a promising forecast, the youth unemployment crisis in Kenya will continue to swell if something is not done to reduce the skills gap that low income and marginalized areas undoubtedly face.
Now, more than ever, it is crucial for the country to harness the innate digital suaveness of its youth and equip them with the capabilities to pursue opportunities that lead to formal employment.
A survey conducted by Internet World Stats in 2018 indicates that Kenya is leading Africa in internet penetration at 83 percent. Indubitably, 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 has shown that the digital economy is growing fast and has enormous potential.
In view of this, it is imperative that the government continue to facilitate growth in Kenya. In May this year, the president 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.
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.
Enterprises like Samasource, has over 2500 youths training data and validation for AI, have embraced the impact sourcing business model. Impact sourcing is the practice of hiring people from the bottom of the pyramid to complete digital work.
Samasource’s learning and development programs equip youths with relevant digital skills to deliver high-quality training data for artificial intelligence. These 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 are necessary so tomorrow’s workforce can take on responsibilities in technology-based enterprises.
With a digitally prepared youth population, it is feasible for Kenya to curb unemployment and secure a future for this young generation. More so, heightened 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.
Liliosa Mbirimi Muturi is Marketing & Impact Manager at Samasource Kenya
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