The Government of Kenya has launched Ajira Digital, an online platform aimed at leveraging on online opportunities to create jobs for Kenyans. The ICT ministry estimates that the platform will enable one million young Kenyans to access online jobs over the next year.
The program is spearheaded by the ICT Ministry, and it aims to introduce young people to online work by providing them with tools, training and mentorship to work and earn an income online.
To get the project off the ground, 150 youth officers have been recruited for deployment to all 47 counties, and these officers will do the work of sensitizing the youth on online job opportunities.
The overall online workforce is estimated to be worth about USD 4.8 billion dollars in 2016; this is projected to increase to USD 15 billion by 2020.
With up to 41,865 Kenyans registered as Freelancers on platforms such as eLance and Odesk, Kenya is Africa's biggest supplier of online workers and tenth in the whole world. The online work sector is fragmented and informal, however, and Ajira represents a concerted effort by the government to leverage on the local skills to mainstream opportunities and keep everything in the sector organized.
Young people working through the Ajira Digital program will be earning KES 2,200 (US$21) for every job they do, with the Government withholding 5% as tax. Economically, current studies show that a young person in Kenya needs at least KES 7,000 (US$69) a month to meet their basic needs.
Though barely a week old, the platform has attracted controversy, with an online petition arguing that the website is misleading, purporting to help unemployed Kenyans get work online.
Ajira will also play the key role of promoting Kenya as a destination for online work, given the large population of the country contracted to work online for different global companies, having the online platform that offers such opportunities underscores the significance of the Online jobs and hence encouraging more Kenyans to join the online workforce and earn the income for their benefits.
Companies create jobs online to be completed by freelancers that means that freelancers can select among temporary jobs and projects around the world, while employers can select the best individuals for specific projects from a larger pool than that available in any given area
Every year, 11 million young people Africans enter the workforce, but there are only about 3.7 million jobs created annually in the formal sector. The bulk of these young people wind up in jobs outside their areas of knowledge, meaning that there is a real need to formalize and mainstream the freelance sector so that those unable to find something can find avenues to earn an income to overcome this shortfall either part- or full-time.
Ajira and other such online platforms can only work if the population has access to internet connectivity and devices, in addition to training and mentorship.
Going forward, Ajira will also have to differentiate itself from other services such as Kuhustle, which connect freelancers with opportunities all over the world.
By having an official Kenyan online portal for online jobs, it appears that the government is hoping to enhance transparency and efficiency by eliminating middlemen, who act as the contacts between online workers and companies offering online job opportunities, this way they determine the amount paid to online workers and as a result payments are not attractive, therefore the Ajira Digital platform will play a key role to avail jobs for those willing to work online.