Leveraging on online opportunities to solve the challenge of youth unemployment

Access to employment and job opportunities is still a major challenge facing the youth not only in Kenya but across the continent. The disruptions occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic has further accelerated this phenomenon.

While this is the case for this group – the youth form arguably the largest population in a number of countries thus we need to seriously work on ways to bridge the youth unemployment gap. We need to closely look into a number of areas that we could prioritize so that we adequately support this population.

Finding solutions for the unemployment crisis and empowering young people to access work should therefore be a key priority.

The digital wave has presented a lot of opportunities and provided solutions that are today powering a number of sectors across many economies.  Embracing digital transformation has itself helped to create a mindset shift for people to now search for online opportunities to learn new skills, upscale existing expertise and general growth in their respective fields.

The recently launched 2021 National Study on digital and digitally-enabled work and awareness of the Ajira Digital Program in Kenya established that 5 per cent of the adult population in Kenya are digital workers, which translates to 1.2 million Kenyans.

Most of the digital workers are working as Freelancers, Writer Access and on Upwork Platforms. The Study findings also showed that key barriers for Digital Workers are Internet costs, Skills gap and WiFi.

A recent report by global consulting firm Dalberg indicated that as Kenya continues to transform its digital economy, narrowing the digital divide and deepening digital adoption will require solutions that account for the nuances and complexities of Kenyans’ diverse experiences and needs.

The report dubbed Kenya Digital Economy - a peoples perspective also revealed that 16 per cent of Kenyans who are employed have used digital services for upskilling and job search. Further 84 per cent of Kenyans reported that digital devices and services are making their lives better while 30 per cent reported a rise in their income as a result of using digital services.

The online workspace has a myriad of opportunities. The increasing and pervasive use of online technologies have created a giant market and appetite for remote workers. In a world of ever-increasing connectivity, how do we then create job opportunities? It is important that we now focus on enhancing the capacity of the youth so that they can have the requisite skills to competitively bid for these offers.

Kenya already sits in a very advantaged position. The foundational infrastructure to support online work and the entire digitization drive is already there. We have a perfect Internet penetration and connectivity and a youth population that is agile and innovative. Additionally, there is already goodwill and support from the government and many other stakeholders.

Developing the youth’s capacity through training to equip them with basic soft skills and introduction to online work skills is now critical.  In order to accelerate the realization of vision 2030, we will need to empower the youth to take up online work and develop themselves. 

ICT is now a significant contributor to our economy. We need to upscale this by developing a robust, digital economy that accelerates the growth and availability of digitally-enabled jobs. We should aim to empower every Kenyan youth through training to build their capacity and give them the skills to enable them to earn decently from digital and digitally-enabled jobs.

This, therefore, behoves every stakeholder to come on board and work on this noble agenda of empowering our youth. With a thriving ICT sector in Kenya that has a solid infrastructure coupled with an innovative youth population and a supportive government I believe we can work towards solving the youth unemployment challenge through leveraging on digital opportunities.

If we focus on achieving this agenda, Kenya is set to be a global leader in the supply of quality digital workers.

The writer, Ken Mwenda (pictured), is the Co-founder and Managing Director of e-Mobilis.

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