How technology can chart a path for work and businesses of the future

The Covid-19 pandemic caused notable changes to people's working patterns.

The gig economy has significantly grown in prominence over the last few years, highlighting the key differentiators that offer a new way of earning a living.

The iLabour Platform finds that there are 14 million active, and 3 million full-time participants in the gig economy. In Kenya, gig work contributes 26.3 per cent of workers to the economy, representing $1,320 (Sh184,800) GDP per capita.

As this evolution around work continues, we believe that in Africa, technology can be a catalyst to bring to life an ecosystem that provides alternative means of earning a living, where digital entrepreneurs can freely emerge and thrive despite a strained economy.

As an industry, we can leverage technology as an enabler of growing businesses to create earning opportunities. Platforms such as Uber aggregate this type of work, thereby professionalising gig work and increasing access to earning opportunities.

In Kenya, Uber's mobility and delivery platforms provide a channel through which drivers and delivery people can access potential passengers and business customers in an independent and flexible environment. Across sub-Saharan Africa, over 59,000 drivers have found earnings opportunities via the Uber platform.

Technology presents an avenue through which the various opportunities in the gig economy can be seized as it reduces barriers to accessing earning opportunities.

In recent years, digital access has become pivotal to social and economic progress in Africa, with mobile telephony leading the way in creating this access. According to Endeavour Africa, the continent's $115 billion (Sh16.1 trillion) digital economy is still in its early phases.

Digital penetration is also growing; only 33 per cent of individuals use the internet compared to a global average of 63 per cent, indicating that there is a high potential to utilise digital access for economic growth.

With the added benefits of online platforms, the gig economy connects many more customers with products and services, creating multiple pathways to make a living through gig work. As an industry, we can use technology as an enabler of growing businesses to create jobs by improving the quality of independent work.

To enhance the growth of the gig economy, a number of levers need to be pulled in collaboration with diverse stakeholders. The public and private sectors can work together to enhance small business growth, which is key to creating earning opportunities, which are then amplified by the access created by platform work to aggregate access to markets.

Regulations need to be tailored for a future-fit ecosystem. For digital entrepreneurship to be sustainable, wider policy reforms are required to improve the ease of earning a living in a gig economy.

Technology has shaped how people and goods move, and we need to work collaboratively to transition the sector towards this future-fit ecosystem.

Platforms like Uber can be a bridge to further economic recovery. By working together with governments and the industry, a progressive standard of platform work can be established for all, resulting in independent work that offers flexible and decent earning opportunities.

In this regard, recently, Uber launched GigSister, a platform that empowers female drivers by providing access to resources, in partnership with L'Oreal and Google, that will help them thrive in their businesses. In 2019, Uber partnered with Zydii, an end-to-end digital training solution, to provide access to training modules on diverse topics to enhance their businesses.

Uber is an economic contributor in sub-Saharan Africa, and recently marked over three million economic opportunities created across the region.

The introduction of digital entrepreneurship as a viable platform for independent contractors to earn is a future that cannot be avoided and is filled with many possibilities.