Can Ajira be the solution to Kenya’s levels of youth unemployment?

Can Ajira be the solution to Kenya’s levels of youth unemployment?

Ajira Digital was launched in partnership with the Kenyan government on November 24th, 2016.

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Ajira means employment in Swahili but who are Ajira Digital?

Ajira Digital was launched in partnership with the Kenyan government on November 24th, 2016. The key objective of the site is to not only increase the awareness of online work in Kenya, specifically to the younger population, but to also help and mentor Kenyans to access online work across the country and improve their digital skills.

The online marketplace currently has over 40,000 Kenyans registered, connecting with others to not only mentor them but to also help them build an online career as a self-employed worker. Online work is hugely flexible, allowing the option of both full or part-time work, making it very enticing to those still studying or with families. Online certificated courses and support centers are also part of the Ajira concept.

Kenya’s high unemployment levels have encouraged the government to take a different approach

Over 17% of the young people living in Kenya are currently unemployed (the highest in East Africa), compared to less than 5.5% in Tanzania and 6.8% in Uganda. Internet penetration is however very high, in fact by the end of 2016 86% of the country had access, making a focus on online work a very obvious one.

Kenya has already made a reputation following the success of its mobile banking application M-Pesa, and the projections for the success of Ajira in coming years are huge. The government have in fact pledged that in the next 12 months Ajira will have enabled over 1 million young Kenyans to have obtained an online freelance job. This is part of their overall vision to make Kenya the African hub of technological innovation.

The 1 million number quoted is double the number Google’s achieved when they provided 500,000 young Africans with digital skills and qualifications. There is also some skepticism as some elements of the site are seeing some very low workflow numbers. New writers working for iWriter for instance are now finding it difficult to earn $50 a week, versus $200 a few years ago, and the huge increase in competition is now in fact actually forcing some of these wages even lower.

There have also been some complaints about the quality of the work coming out of Kenya, in fact iWriter once banned Kenyan writers due to permanently poor feedback from customers. This situation has since been resolved.

How does it work?

The Ajira program provides free Wi-Fi access, has established a fully online registration platform and is also deploying technological experts across the country to help train their young unemployed people.

The work currently being offered and completed online includes software development, graphic designers, virtual assistants, web designer and transcription services, any salaries earned are currently taxed at a minimum of 5%.

The minister of information, communications and technology has made further commitments, promising the construction of 24-hour free internet innovation technology hubs, making the entire initiative more available and efficient.

Fundamental recommendations and next steps

The key recommendation being made to Ajira Digital and the Kenyan government is that they should focus their energy on training and supporting the creation of new online thriving businesses, as opposed to simply sending their people to work for low paid online outside employers.

Entrepreneurship and education must be the priority over people simply being encouraged to find online employment, in fact it has been projected that if managed correctly Ajira digital could be a contributing part of the legitimate creation of a number of Kenyan online billionaires by as early as 2020.

Pictures : ajiradigital.go.ke and Algérie Eco

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