CHANGE

Meet a job agency spicing work experience for Kenyans in Arab

Cases of harassment have in the the past dominated work experience in the Arab League, dwarfing positive social economic transformation by those working in the region.

In Summary
  • Maharah Kenya trains and connect at least 10,000 unskilled locals to job opportunities in the Arab League
  • The National Employment Authority (NEA) which now inspects and licenses recruiting agencies exporting Kenyan labour.
Hio Kenya chairman Abbas Muhammed Zain
Image: ENOS TECHE

Ponder this. A 19 - year village girl first visits the city, goes straight to the airport, boards a plane to a fast developing country to ostensibly work as a house manager.

This is what exactly happened to Jane Aseyo six years ago when a relative linked her with a casual work agency sourcing job opportunities for locals in the middle East.

''At first, I was jubilant but fear and confusion crept in at every stroke of culture shock. Things were extremely different in Jordan. Nobody prepared me. I missed my Mukingi Village in Vihiga County every passing day,'' Aseyo said.  

She has since adopted Arabic culture, having now worked in Jordan, Qatar and now Dubai.

Aseyo who was in the country over Christmas Holiday has since built a decent house for her parents, educated her younger siblings transformed her family from her modest salary. 

''Things have really changed for good for those coming to Gulf. They are now trained and oriented. No more passport confiscation and other mistreatments,'' Asayo says, adding they are now free to form saving groups 'chamas'.  

Cases of harassment have in the past dominated work experience in the Arab League, dwarfing positive social-economic transformation by those working in the region.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the Arab League has in the past decade outpaced the USA and Europe as Kenya's biggest job export market, pushing up diaspora remittance from the region.

In September 2014,  Kenya banned employment agencies from recruiting its citizens to work in foreign countries. A multi-agency task force was set up to make recommendations on how to protect migrant workers and curb the activities of ‘briefcase employment agencies’.

The task force found that around 200 000 Kenyans were working in Middle Eastern countries. Of these, 130 000 were in Saudi Arabia and 22 000 in the United Arab Emirates, with the rest in Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.

The ban was relaxed in 2016 after Kenya signed agreements with most of the countries, a move that has since seen the number of workers in the region more than double. 

The National Employment Authority (NEA) now inspects and licenses recruiting agencies exporting Kenyan labour.

Maharah Kenya, a human resource and job sourcing agency that trains and connects at least 10,000 unskilled locals to job opportunities in the Arab League have been at the forefront of helping job seekers break culture shock.

The firm's director Abbas Muhammed Zain told the Star that they chose to take the initiative after several complaints of mistreatment among works in the region.

He said that they did a survey and noticed that most job seekers came straight from villages, meaning a cocktail of culture shock for them.

''We now have a centre in Mwiki where we train our recruits before placing them for jobs abroad. Basic knowledge of language, religion, foods, clothing, saving and greeting can go along way, 'Abbas who has been running the centre for at least two years said.

He explains that the number of those seeking training has increased tremendously, overwhelming the Mwiki facility. But he has a new plan to accommodate more people. 

The agency offers accommodation and food for trainees and earns a small commission after posting them for job opportunities.  

''We follow-up on our recruits, monitor relationships with employers abroad and encourage them to save and invest back home. Our goal is to foster social-economic empowerment,'' the director told the Star.  

He recently unveiled a new organisation, Hio Kenya to champion skills trainings amongst young people in the country.

The organisation is planning to partner with  the National Employment Authority (NEA), the National Industrial Training Authority NITA) and a host of other technical training institutions to train unskilled 50,000 youths in all 47 counties. 

''We have few donors on board and we hope to launch the first initiative in Mombasa County before the end of this month, 'Abbas said.

Abbas believes that a skilled population is an essential ingredient for driving a social-economic revolution in the country.

'Covid-19 has has rendered many people jobless, pushing up unemployment rate to a high of 15 per cent. Soft skills training to drive self-employment and job export offer a possible remedy to this problem,'' Abbas who doubles up as the organization's chairperson said.