Ajira Digital Project- Phase I Launched on 11th April 2017 at Leisure Lodge Hotel in Diani.

Ajira Digital Project- Phase I, which is tri-partite partnership project between Ministry of ICT, Rockefeller Foundation and KEPSA was launched on 11th April 2017, at Leisure Lodge Hotel in Diani at the Connected Kenya conference organized by ICT Authority. In attendance were the three partners in addition to ICT players from both the private and public sector.

The launch took place after the signing of a project financial support grant agreement between KEPSA and Rockefeller Foundation of $1,000,000 on 28th March 2017, towards the costs of Ajira Digital project phase 1 for a period of one year; 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018. The grant will be used to scale demand driven training and develop a sustainable model for connecting disadvantaged youths to online jobs; through implementing approaches aimed at addressing the challenges that hinder the youth on benefiting from digital job opportunities by providing training opportunities and work experience through mentor ship.

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Specifically, Phase 1 of the Ajira Digital Project which KEPSA is implementing will provide the targeted 10000 youth of between 18 and 30 years with one week training (basic soft skills and introduction to online work skills) and mentorship through hand holding by experienced online workers/freelancers already working and earning from online work. In addition, this phase will assess the short term outcome of the intervention as well as document lessons learnt which would aid in scaling up the project by the Government of Kenya.

Speaking during the launch, ICT Cabinet Secretary Mr. Joe Mucheru said the ministry will seek to expand the project’s reach and create more demand for online work, as well as work with key stakeholders to position Kenya as a Destination of choice for skilled online workers.

Rockefeller Foundation Managing Director Africa Regional Office, Mr. Mamadou Biteye, noted that according to studies by Rockefeller Foundation out of only 100,000 people who work online in Africa, 40,000 are from Kenya. This is a clear picture that Kenyans have grown their uptake of e-commerce and online businesses over the years. However Kenyans represent only 0.08% of those working online globally.

KEPSA CEO, Ms. Carole Kariuki during her speech noted that the Ajira project is one of the most exciting initiatives and appreciated the Ministry of ICT led by CS Mucheru and Rockefeller Foundation led by Mamadou Biteye for this partnership and believing in KEPSA’s capacity to again implement another youth project after the success of KYEP. She noted that the workplace and jobs are changing in  that what 20 people did in a factory in the past is now being done by 5 or less people because of technology. She also stated that Africa’s population has continued to grow at a time when most physical jobs are reducing or being retained by technology and equipment therefore emphasizing on the need to ride on the new wave and create jobs for the youth, stating that online jobs is a great pull for new face of jobs.

Overall, the Ministry of ICT in partnership with the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and partners in the civil society and private sector have set up the Ajira Digital Project to bridge the gap between skills demand and lack of jobs.  The project aims to introduce young people to online digital work and provide the tools, training and mentorship needed for young people to work and earn an income with dignity. This will contribute in achieving the country’s objective of a globally competitive knowledge-based middle-income economy in an increasingly digital world. The Ajira Digital Project’s further seeks to position Kenya as a choice of labor destination for multinational companies as well as encourage local companies and public sector to create digital work. As a result, this will catapult Kenya into the Global map, recognized as a Freelance hub by 2022.

The project has an ambitious goal of enabling over 1 million youth to earn a decent wage (above minimum wage) from digital platforms in 5 years.  Existing initiatives demonstrate that there are four key challenges that need to be addressed to ensure online work project have a lasting impact:

  1. Awareness – Building trust and confidence
  2. Education and Skills for the dynamic, always changing online jobs
  3. Empowerment through regulatory, infrastructure and financial support
  4. Access to dignified work – Enabling the demand side

To kick start the project, the Ministry of ICT has  partnered with KEPSA to implement this concept through a phased approach for the initial 1 year, to ensure lessons learnt inform the scale up. The partnership was as a result of KEPSA having successfully implemented the Kenya Youth Empowerment Project (KYEP) Private Sector Training and Internship component funded to a tune of 16.7 M USD, which was the main component that directly impacted on the youth aimed at addressing lack of skills and work experience for unemployed youth in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. The project saw 20384 youth (15-29 years) benefit with 80% of the youth securing employment post programme completion. KEPSA engaged the youth in mentorship, internship and skill-based training to improve their employability, making them more productive in their contribution to the country’s economic growth. The amount was to initially train 16,000 youth but the funds were stretched to cater for 20,000 youth.

The specific objectives of Ajira Digital project are to:

  1. Raise the profile of online work amongst all Kenyans.
  2. Promote a mentorship and collaborative learning approach to finding online work.
  3. Enable access to online work for all Kenyans.
  4. Promote Kenya as a destination for online workers.