Government Spokesman Colonel (Retired) Cyrus Oguna has called on Kenyan youth to embrace online jobs which he said, had increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Col (Rtd) Oguna stated that though millions of employees globally lost their livelihoods when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, opportunities for online workers improved significantly in areas of transcription, digital marketing, virtual assistance, data entry and management and online writing. Addressing youths at the low income settlements of Bondeni in Nakuru, the spokesman said the government has eased access to digital opportunities in the country through the Ajira digital Programme.

At the same time Colonel (Rtd) Oguna who was accompanied by County Commissioner Erastus Mbui Mwenda expressed concern that over 3 million Huduma Namba Cards remained uncollected at various registration centers and government offices countrywide. He revealed that so far 9.6 million Huduma Namba Cards had been issued and delivered to their respective destinations out of which 6.4 million had been collected by their bearers.

While noting that young Kenyans aged 20-34 are the hardest hit by unemployment compared to those above 35 years in an economic setting that is plagued by job cuts and hiring freezes on the back of sluggish corporate sales, Mr Oguna indicated other state sponsored youth empowerment initiatives such as Uwezo Fund and Kenya Youth Employment Opportunities Program (KYEOP) were still on track.

The Ajira initiative seeks to impart skills on the youth to help them secure temporary online work such as software development and transcription services in a rapidly evolving global gig economy. The programme involves hiring mentors to offer training and providing free internet connectivity and work spaces through the constituency innovation hubs, largely funded by National Government Constituencies Development Fund (NG-CDF).

He added “1.2 million Kenyan youth are currently making a living out of online jobs. As the world struggles with social-economic challenges brought by Covid-19 pandemic, online workers have not been affected because their workspace is safe to conduct business and deliver services. It is high time Kenyan youth who constitute 75 per cent of the population embraced technological changes and innovations to promote remote working as alternative employment. Online work is the way to go. The opportunities in the digital work space by far surpass the number of digital workers. I urge our youth to enroll in the Ajira Digital Programme so that they can benefit and make online work as an alternative employment,”

MasterCard Foundation came on board in June 2019, committing Sh30 billion under Young Africa Works in Kenya programme targeting to support five million young Kenyans to access dignified and fulfilling digital and digitally-enabled work in five years. The on-boarding of MasterCard and other private actors transformed the Ajira programme to a public-private sector initiative.

“Globally, many countries have invested a lot in online work and they are generating a lot of revenue in billions to their respective economies and that is our absolute goal as a country,” the government spokesman added.

Buoyed by higher internet penetration, supported by rising use of smartphones, Kenya has set sights on becoming a tech hub for Africa, providing job opportunities for its growing skilled and innovative youth. Some 320 innovation hubs were set up between July 2017 and June 2020, according to a progress report by the ICT and Youth Affairs ministry.

Oguna said the roll out of Ajira digital clubs is intended to take place in every higher-level institution and is intended to reach more youth and expand footprints of the Ajira Digital Program across the country. “The Ajira programme will see us instill the spirit and capabilities of innovation in our citizens, creating a more technologically vibrant generation in the next decade or so. I believe this is the route to a Kenyan ‘Silicon Valley’ of the 21st century,” he said.

He stated that the government was committed to establishing more Ajira Digital Clubs in universities and Technical Vocational Education Training Institutes (TVETS) countrywide as it worked towards promoting mentorship and collaborative learning approach to finding digital work.

Colonel (Retired) Oguna affirmed that Ajira digital clubs were intended to act as formal structures within the various higher-learning institutions to rope in new members to the Ajira digital ecosystem where citizens get access to work readiness training, mentorship and visibility of job opportunities in the gig economy.

“We aim to equip more Kenyan Youth with skills that will enable them to earn from digital and digitally-enabled jobs. We are delighted to formalize and fully operationalize yet another Ajira digital club to train, mentor and link youth to various online jobs and enable them to earn decent wages,” Oguna said.

Mr Mwenda challenged the youth to exploit opportunities offered by agribusiness and Small and Medium Enterprises as a way of creating employment and generating income. He urged youth to enroll in polytechnics and Technical Vocational Education Training Institutes so as to acquire skills that can be sourced by local and foreign investors.

The administrator further indicated that farming should not be viewed as a venture for retirees as there was unexploited potential running into billions of shillings in the poultry, dairy and beef sub-sectors.

Mr Mbui said the Ajira initiative was of critical importance to Kenya’s quest to create many jobs for youths especially from universities and TVETS. He stated that the program that targets youth in and out of formal education systems was a broader strategy to create an environment for work generation and skills development as well as incubate an entrepreneurship culture amongst the youth. “The government’s aim is to expose our students and graduates to the opportunities in the digital workspace,” the County Commissioner pointed out.