Ajira Digital Program, an initiative of the Government of Kenya under the Ministry of ICT, Innovations, and Youth Affairs which is being funded by Mastercard Foundation and implemented by different partners including Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) hosted a discussion forum with Business Executives from Homabay and Kisumu Counties to assess and explore the synergies and potential collaboration opportunities within the digital market and economy. These forums that were held over two days are part of the series of business engagement forums that Ajira is holding across different counties.
Recently, a national study on the digital economy indicated that more than 1.2 million young people are earning their livelihood through digital and digitally-enabled jobs. This scale has been reached as a result of the growing importance of Kenya’s digital ecosystem and the role of the private sector in spurring innovations, jobs, and enterprises for youth. Businesses that are embracing digitization as a core strategy for enhancing operations have further encouraged this trend while at the same time facilitating the creation of jobs for youth. This is the central focus of the Ajira Digital Program.
Speaking at the forums, KEPSA’s Deputy CEO-Projects and Foundation, Eng. Martha Cheruto, highlighted KEPSA’s commitment to supporting the government to ensure social-economic transformation of the country and more so towards achieving a high-quality life for Kenyans by 2030. Martha noted that the youthful population accounting for 75 per cent of the total population forms a great resource for businesses to tap into and accelerate the transformation. Representing over 1,000,000 businesses from all sectors of the economy, KEPSA has been playing a key role in engaging the private sector to support the implementation of the Ajira Digital Program through digitization of the business processes and the creation of digital jobs for the youth. Martha recounted how some businesses have been actively involved in youth employment programs before such as Safaricom’s Blaze, ABSA Bank Kenya’s Ready-To-Work, KCB’s2Jiajiri, Equity Bank’s Wings to Fly, Mabati Rolling Mills’ Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative, and TVET programs among other programs. Hence, she urged the Homa Bay and Kisumu business communities to explore potential solutions and prospects for collaboration in the digital space as they ensured the creation of value for businesses and job opportunities for Kenyan youth.
Speaking at the events was Yakazi Upskilling Program (YUP) Business Development Lead, Marilyn Seleyan, who reflected how their partnership with Ajira through KEPSA has helped the platform in getting the right skills and connected them to trainings, events, digital content, trainers, skilling resources, work tools, and growth opportunities. She added that online jobs are not limited to youth only in Nairobi but across the counties. Also, several of the Program’s beneficiaries shared the significant impact Ajira has had in their lives by offering them decent source of livelihood.
Ministry of ICT Regional Coordinator – Ajira, Fredrick Odossy, was happy to note that in Homa Bay the government in partnership with area MPs and NG-CDF Office has invested in several Ajira Youth Empowerment Centres (AYECs) at Ndhiwa CDF Office, Ratanga CDF Office Ndhiwa, East Kamagak Chief’s Office, Kodera South, Kasipul NG-CDF Office – Oyugis, Kasewe Chief’s Office and Omiro CDF Office. The Ndhiwa AYEC especially had made tremendous strides by offering digital skills training as well as providing transcription services as job opportunities through a partnership with the Judiciary. The satellite centre which has 20 transcribers has transcribed over 2,047 audio hours demonstrating that digital jobs can be executed anywhere in this country.
Nicholas Migot, Director ICT County Government of Kisumu applauded the Ajira Digital Program for providing a clear roadmap to youth empowerment by introducing the vast online opportunities that the digital ecosystem presents. Mr Nicholas extolled Kisumu for being a county embracing digital transformation adding that they are on course to create digital centres to complement the effort by Ajira Digital Program and its partners.
Ken Mwenda, eMobilis Co-Founder and MD explained how the Ajira Program brings value to one’s business. He explained that the Ajira Program looks both at the supply and demand side. The Youth are trained with the end goal of making an impact on the businesses through digital jobs. Over 59,000 youth have been trained and then there are mentors in place. Mr. Mwenda urged business people to embrace digital transformation pointing services that can be sourced including but not limited to data entry, transcription services, digital marketing, and virtual assistance. eMobilis he noted has partnered with Amazon where over 97 youth were trained on more of the aforementioned areas and other web services. This is in addition to their engagement with online platforms to offer blue colour jobs with the stand out example being iBuild and Fundis who rebranded the Ajira Youth Empowerment Centres (AYECs).
Showcasing the achievements of the Program thus far the Project Director Ajira Digital, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Dr. Ehud Gachugu encouraged business leaders that the digital jobs offered businesses solutions such as reducing business costs and solving capacity issues while at the same time focusing on more core functions and increased productivity from their employees. Among the digital work that businesses could source as per Ehud’s list included data entry, content writing, transcription, software development, accounting among others. According to Dr. Ehud, Digital jobs will contribute 1.4 trillion to the GDP by 2024. It is, therefore, paramount that businesses undergo digital transformation and have a digital footprint if they are to compete in the future. “Together, we can catalyse and enable the demand side locally, regionally, and Internationally,” said Ehud.
The digital economy remains a top priority for the Government of Kenya and over the last 15 years, they have been committed to putting in place enabling policies and investments to support these efforts. Government, through the Ministry of ICT, has an objective to have broadband available to all Kenyans within walking distance even in rural areas. To date, over 200 Ajira Youth Empowerment Centres have been rolled out countrywide, over 40 Ajira Digital Clubs established in Universities and TVET institutions, and more than 200,000 youth registered on the Ajira Portal https://ajiradigital.go.ke/
Martha underscored the fact that the apex body of the private sector in Kenya, KEPSA, is particularly aligned to the agenda of the digital economy, job creation and inclusive growth in Kenya. She welcomed the private sector companies to explore opportunities shared in the Forum and to continue supporting this cause of jobs for youth as they jointly move the country forward.