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The future of work in Kenya


Date Posted: 9/15/2020 12:46:41 PM

Posted By: Collegiate  Membership Level: Gold  Total Points: 2488

Disruption is the word I think about as the world tries to battle the Covid19 pandemic. It's been 10 months since it began to spread widely and quite frankly with our modern advancements, we have not developed a successful vaccine that can combat it. one of the may direct consequence is the disruption of the future of work.

One thing that will surely change world-over is how most people work. Major global corporations and leading organizations have been forced to send their workers home and encourage them to work remotely. The need for in-person work isn't seen as such important. People have changed their bedrooms, living rooms, and backyards to say the least into their offices. Locally how we are going to fare will determine the future of work.

Finding income online is one avenue to explore. Internet penetration in Kenya has greatly improved since the early days. Now it can be argued that nearly every home has a smartphone. More young people who make the bulk of the entire population (KNBS 2019 census) are tech-savvy or at least can operate a computer/laptop at the basic level. Does this mean that work will go remotely as is the trend elsewhere in the world? In my opinion No. Locally formal jobs are rare. Graduates from universities and colleges are been churned out by the thousands each year and yet the number of opportunities to absorb them is decreasing. Reasons ranging from slow business growth to government policies are to blame. Working remotely is only possible for a few organizations locally. These organizations only employ a fraction of professionals.

Academic writing, blogging/vlogging, transcription and marketing products through social media sites are other ways the modern Kenyan youth is seeking ways to earn a living. Almost everyone with a good internet connection and a

laptop out there is trying to learn and earn. There are Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) firms locally that have secured contracts with international tech companies to help them train Artificial Intelligence (A.I)in machine learning, annotations, categorization, coding, and tagging. These BPOs have been forced with the current pandemic to move their workers remotely with relative ease. This sector has employed thousands of workers in India and the Philippines.

It is my observation that meaningful work will be scarce. Work that satisfies the worker or rather employing one's skills in the right place will be next to impossible to secure. We often hear of post-graduates hawking samosas or graduates working odd jobs or college dropouts writing thesis for an international student. This shouldn't be the case but sadly it is.

With more organizations declaring profit warnings, we are expecting the number of those losing their meaningful jobs to increase. Already the number of unemployed is too high and adding the newly unemployed will be costly to the country. Not everyone can fit online successfully. The new age of Kenyan youth is resilient and enterprising. They don't see a problem in selling boiled eggs at the estate bus stop shed or hawking coffee or porridge all they want are having sustainable income-generating activities.

So going remote is not going to have much of an impact in Kenya. The answer still lies in the informal economy. As a lower-middle-income country, we are a long way to go before a vast number of our able-bodied men and women are fully absorbed in the remote workplace. Even if most urbanites own internet-enabled devices, it is not safe to say they have the requisite skills needed to enable them to work online as freelancers or are not sure where to start. Informal work is and will still play a pivotal role in the foreseeable future.

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