Thousands of Kenyans have either been laid off or consigned to joblessness, as employers turn to advanced technologies to cut cost and improve efficiency.
A tough business environment, which has seen profits dry up, has compelled firms to innovate, taking up machines and reducing the number of human workers.
In banking alone, more than 3,000 people have lost their jobs in the last two years, as banks digitised their processes. And with Kenya leading in adoption of ICT on the continent, the country will continue experiencing what economists describe as ‘job-less growth’, or a situation where productivity is driven mainly by computers.
Almost all sectors have not been spared by this digital onslaught. And while we do not advocate for the resistance of technology, policymakers need to come up with deliberate measures to help young people navigate what is fast turning into an industrial re-organisation.
As the World Economic Forum noted in a 2017 report, there is a need to build a pipeline of future skills.
It is encouraging that Kenya has designed a new education carriculum that encourages critical thinking, creativity and Emotional intelligence. There is also a need to accelerate acquisition of digital and STEM skills to match the way people will work and collaborate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
But there is also a need to realise that there are thousands of out-of-school people who cannot fit into these futuristic jobs. Policymakers need to consider them as they craft the next job-creation blue-print.
The last decade has seen a remarkable shift in consumer technology and applications like cloud computing, artificial intelligence and big data- all of which have already started disrupting a number of sectors in developed countries.
It is just a matter of time before these technologies are mainstreamed in Kenya, too.
There is a need for the public and private sectors to work together and create a formula within which the current labour force is equipped with the skills and opportunities necessary to compete in this future world.
Universities and technical training institutions should update school syllabi to reflect the dynamic changes in technology and prepare the youth for a labour market augmented by technology.