Digital Jobs in the Kenyan Tech Ecosystem

By Adam Chagani
iHub Research
  Published 25 Nov 2014
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Digital Jobs in the Kenyan Tech Ecosystem
To learn more about digital jobs in Kenya, read our full reporthere Kenya is known as“Africa’s economic powerhouseand is now classified as amiddle income country. The country is known as Africa’s “Silicon Savannah” and a successful tech sector is contributing an estimated 12 per cent to the country’s GDP every year. Yet over 40% of Kenyan youth (aged 16 to 35) are unemployed.
Why is this? What role might the tech sector play in reducing youth unemployment?
AfrilabsandiHub Research, with support from theRockefeller Foundation, spent the past year investigating the potential of the tech sector in creating digital jobs for Kenyan youth. According to Rockefeller Foundation, Digital jobs are “created through the application of information and communications technologies to a new or existing activity or process.” In other words, digital employment may cover data scientists, developers, or graphic designers but also jobs in industry, agriculture, or government that require the use of ICT technologies. From over 90 interviews with various tech hubs, training institutes, enterprises, start-ups and public institutions, we found that the concept of digital jobs may encompass two dimensions: low-competence digital jobs and high-competence digital jobs. High-competence digital jobs require a combination of non-technical skills, such as project management and soft skills, and technical skills including software development, IT, programming, marketing, and, analytical skills. This distinction proved useful in assessing not only whether the tech sector is creating digital jobs, but also what kinds of digital jobs are being created. Some key findings from the study: 1)Future Trends for Digital Job Creations
  • Online work has the potential for medium-scale digital job creation
  • Big data analytics have small-scale potential, as the sector primarily targets employees with high-competence digital skills
  • The mobile application sector has medium-scale potential for job creation for both high- and low-competence digital skills.
2)Potential for Digital Job Creation in the Tech Ecosystem Tech startups and tech growth private enterprises play ajob-creating rolein the tech ecosystem, by offering employment as a result of innovation, product creation and market growth. In contrast, tech training institutes and tech hubs play ajob-facilitatingrole by providing support through robust training programs, mentorship, capacity building, events and partnerships. We found that startups and growth private enterprise create digital jobs at amoderatescale. Growth private enterprises hold potential for medium-scale digital job creation in the future although this first requires a bridging of the skills gap. 3)The Digital Skills Gap Despite the significant number of youth attending tech training programs and relevant university courses, most employers find that applicants lack the practical skill set necessary for digital jobs. The key skills and experience that were seen to be lacking are presentation and business skills, personal financial management skills and soft skills. Secondly, startups (75 per cent), growth private enterprises (68 per cent) and tech hubs (78 per cent) perceive that it is too expensive to hire qualified experts. Although tech startups and growth tech enterprises expect practical skill sets necessary for digital jobs from their employees such as business, financial management and soft skills, the scale of digital job creation is currentlymoderate. In addition, the employability of youth in digital jobs is particularly hindered by a gap between theoretical skills, attained by youth through various programs, and practical skills, sought after by employers. Currently, tech hubs and training institutes are attempting to bridge this skills gap by redeveloping the education curriculum to include more practical training, creating internship and apprenticeship programs, and facilitating mentorship programs. To learn more about digital jobs in Kenya, read our full reporthere Share your thoughts on Kenyan digital jobs in the comments section below!
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