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COVID-19 Shifts Jobs Focus to Freelancing in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 4 – Kenya’s freelance economy is set for growth as demand for online work intensifies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) Head of Ajira Digital  Program Ehud Gachugu. says though the COVID-19 pandemic has lowered revenue and reduced job opportunities, it has also led to a huge demand for online part-time jobs compared to full-time employment.

He says the Pandemic has seen companies shift their focus and develop new digital products in a bid to stay afloat.

“Though many businesses are operating at an optimum level, we have seen a surge in online businesses as well as demand for online part-time projects which is set to continue in the near future,” he said.

He added that moving forward, companies are already adapting to freelancing adding that the eight to 5 full-time model is slowly losing ground.

“In five years, 8 to 5 jobs will no longer be an option, and freelancing will be the new normal since it has proven to be cost-effective and fast, young people should see this as a big opportunity and seek training, especially with the Ajira program.,” he noted.

Some major sectors that are taking up online work include the Media, ICT, Data Entry, Healthcare, Education, Finance, blue-collar economy among others.

“At the Ajira Digital Program, in the last three months about 18, 000 young people accessed digitaL jobs, through our 19 local and international partners, and the trend is set to increase going forward as we target to get one million Kenyans to access to online freelance jobs,” he noted.

The Ajira Digital Program is a government initiative driven by the Ministry of ICT, Innovations, and Youth Affairs to empower over one million young people to access digital job opportunities.

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The program seeks to position Kenya as a choice labour destination for multinational companies as well as encourage local companies and the public sector to create digital work. The government digitization projects already create lots of viable microwork that can be completed by digital workers.

The main objectives are to raise the profile of digital work; Promote a mentorship and collaborative learning approach to finding digital work; Provide Kenyans with access to digital work, and finally Promote Kenya as a destination for online workers.

Since its inception in April 2017, the Ajira Digital project has achieved increased awareness for online jobs and enhanced digital skills among the youth in Kenya. Over 7000 youths have been trained on online work and linked with mentors for a one-month handholding mentorship from experienced online workers in their preferred areas of online work.

“Even with these milestones, more needs to be done, to increase opportunities in this sector, which includes, a government creating policies that will enhance the freelance economy,” he explained.

Some of the policies proposed include tax incentives for companies outsourcing digital workers, changes in the education system to promote digital literacy as well as aligning labour laws to promote freelance economy.

On his part, eMobilis Managing Director Ken Mwenda says freelance job opportunities are massive urging young Kenyans to take the advantage of the Ajira Ditial Program, to get training and job placements.

“This year, our work with the Ajira program is to train young Kenyans to be ready for the online job market, we have so far over 100 youth empowerment centres and 51 trainers with access to devices and internet to connections. we plan to hit the 10, 000 mark training by the end of 2020,” Mwenda noted.

He says Covid-19 has accelerated the digitization trend; and virtual assistant work is only set to go higher.
in the United States, the Freelance economy also known as the Gig economy is a nearly $1 trillion economy employing 35 percent of the workforce, with freelancers earning more per hour than 70 percent of workers in the overall U.S economy.

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