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Kenya Gig Economy Can Offer Solutions To Youth Unemployment

Kenya

August 29, 2019

Ground-breaking Mercy Corps study shows job creation potential alongside need for investment and regulation

NAIROBI, Kenya — New research from the global organization Mercy Corps demonstrates the potential of the Kenyan online gig economy to meet growing youth unemployment in the country.

Kenya is experiencing a 'youth bulge' with approximately 20% of its population between the ages of 15 and 24 — above the world's average of 15.8% and Africa's average of 19.2%. Furthermore, 15-34 year-olds account for 84% of those unemployed in Kenya.

In a first for Kenya, the study “Towards a digital workforce: Understanding the building blocks of Kenya's gig economy," provides an estimate of the total size of the online Kenyan economy and its future prospects. Currently the gig economy is estimated to be worth around $109 million, employing 36,573 gig workers. Based on current investment levels, it is expected to grow by 33% over the next five years to $345 million, employing 93,875 gig workers.

"Thanks to mobile, internet and smartphone penetration, together with the proliferation of mobile money, gig work is revolutionizing the Kenyan economy and changing the Kenyan workforce,” says Jerioth Mwaura, the Youth Impact Labs Partnership Manager for Mercy Corps in Kenya. “Online platforms are a new source of income for talented, innovative young people who otherwise would be left on the sidelines.”

Despite the gig economy anticipating significant growth, Mercy Corps’ new research and practical experience through its job creation program, Youth Impact Labs, highlights the lack of regulation in social protection, equal employment opportunities, and labor standards. Current laws and regulations in Kenya are geared towards formal employment.

“Gig workers have the potential to enable Kenya to make meaningful headway towards achieving sustainable development, through a deliberate focus on investments that create job opportunities. But we must put in place policies to protect the growing number of young gig workers who are working in a regulatory grey zone,” says Jerioth.

While the sector holds considerable promise to formalize Kenya's workforce, collaboration between industry players will be critical to generate demand for gig work. Investors, tech innovators, training institutions, development agencies and policymakers will be needed to build skills such as communication, pricing and marketing that are critical to thrive in the gig economy and unlock barriers, that constrain gig work in Kenya.

For more information about Mercy Corps’ work in Kenya, go to https://www.mercycorps.org/youth-impact-labs.