With the right programmes in place, Kenya can transform and elevate itself in the global IT industry, creating employment and significant growth


“Nearly 70% of Kenyan adults transfer money via mobile phone – the highest percentage of any country on Earth”


Kenya is one of the fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an economic growth averaging 5,7%, according to a World Bank report issued earlier this year.


The country has a population of 52,57 million, with an approximate unemployment rate of 7%, which is significantly lower than many other African countries – particularly South Africa, which has a population not much larger than that of Kenya but an approximate unemployment rate of more than 50%.


There is, however, a significant disparity between informal and formal-sector employment. The majority of employment in Kenya is within the informal sector, with only a small percentage emanating from the private sector. There is a drive towards the creation of more formal or private-sector employment in the country, but we should not forget that the informal sector creates a significant amount of jobs, generates income within impoverished communities and contributes significantly to economic growth.


The informal sector is often viewed as ‘problematic’ but should be considered an indicator of the entrepreneurial spirit of the African continent. Data around the future world of work shows that entrepreneurship and smaller businesses will be key features of the African continent, with a significant rise in technological innovation. Not only that, but 80% of employment will emanate from smaller businesses rather than formal or public-sector institutions, where over-employment is a concern and unsustainable. This could be especially true in Kenya, given that the country, with its culture of technology and positive approach to digital disruption, is anticipated to become the tech hub of Africa.


Kenya is a perfect example of tech adoption on a large scale. According to a report in Ethiopian Airlines magazine Selamta, nearly 70% of Kenyan adults transfer money via mobile phone – the highest percentage of any country on Earth – with more than US$320-million transferred each month. This digital transaction culture has resulted in Nairobi fast becoming a creative hub in software development, attracting significant attention from prominent members of the global IT community.


The adoption of mobile-based money transactions was deeply rooted in the country’s social dynamic, where a high proportion of Kenya’s urban population financially supports family members in rural communities. Previously, the only way to send funds to family members was via hand-delivery or with bus drivers. Given the security and safety aspect, M-Pesa created a digital platform for urban workers to safely and instantly transfer money to their rural families. The uptake of this digital technology was unprecedented and unexpected and created a positive attitude and culture towards technology innovation within the country.


The integration of technology in Kenya seems to take place at a faster pace than in other African countries owing to a less rigid regulatory environment. This has led to an insurgence of technological innovation and related businesses across the country.


It would appear that the future world of work in Kenya sits firmly in rapid technological innovation and evolution. With the right programmes and initiatives in place, Kenya can transform and elevate itself in the global IT industry, vastly contributing to the creation of employment and significant economic growth.


Even though the informal sector may not be directly related to the technological innovations emerging from the country, it may be a good initiative to start linking the entrepreneurial enthusiasm and spirit that resides in the informal sector with the opportunities that exist in the formal sector. Furthermore, it will be necessary to ensure that relevant education is provided at various institutions, whether at primary or tertiary level and that opportunities to reskill and upskill be given to those already employed in the formal sector. In addition, community-based educational programmes should target those individuals who may be unemployed and lack the skills for employment.


Introduction to technology and the opportunity for growth will be endless in a country like Kenya, where digital disruption is welcomed and a positive outlook is expected.

Calire McMullin
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