Research shows how young Kenyans have made digital platforms work for them

For the study, researchers interviewed 74 youths in urban and rural Kenya

In Summary
  • In 2020, nearly 7 million Kenyans lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic as firms shut down and for others jobs declared redundant.
  • In e-commerce youth were able to devise creative ways to overcome long-standing difficulties such as the ‘last mile’ problem.
Young people surf on their phones
Young people surf on their phones

Digital platforms have given youth a platform to be able to secure work opportunities in innovative, a new research reveals

In 2020, nearly 7 million Kenyans lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic as firms shut down and for others jobs declared redundant.

A research by Caribou Digital, Qhala and Mastercard Foundation has shown how young Kenyans  are using digital platforms to earn a living during Covid-19.

For the study, researchers interviewed 74 youths (18-35 years old) in urban and rural Kenya working on platforms in logistics, farming, e-commerce, music and art.

In e-commerce youth were able to devise creative ways to overcome long-standing difficulties such as the ‘last mile’ problem.

In agriculture the youth were able to engage and educate other young people about the sector on social media.

For visual arts and music, the youth created communities and showcased the processes behind artistic creation.

“This report is a timely and important look at how young Kenyans are applying this ingenuity to digital platforms, an integral part of the economy,” said Tade Aina, Head of Research at Mastercard Foundation.

“Despite the disruption of Covid-19, in each of the sectors young people are devising creative solutions to the problems posed by the new digital economy, demonstrating the resilience and transformation this technology can bring.”

Young Kenyans get creative to get the most out of platforms

The report shows that young people are expressing their innovation and entrepreneurship to succeed in the digital economy across a number of sectors.

With online platforms often designed without the Kenyan context in mind, farmers and small business owners had to think on their feet to fulfil last-mile delivery.

The research also found a massive motivation for individuals to upskill, stay ahead of trends and make themselves the best they can be for the success of their business.

In this way, young Kenyans are seizing opportunities to push forward with digital tools and earn a living in new ways.

Those in logistics(delivery services) were able to get orders from apps such as Uber and Bolt.

The report notes that when weighed against unemployment, the drivers appreciated that they were able to earn, learn, save, and change the narrative of motorcycle driving.

On the social media platforms such as Jumia and Facebook, the youth were able to sell items.

“Both formal and social media platforms have created new ways to search and discover businesses through paid ads, search engine optimization (SEO), online referrals, and collaboration with social media influencers,” noted the research.

Young people use tech to forge new paths across sectors

Outdated ideas of various sectors are being disrupted as young Kenyans use tech to transform the way these sectors operate.

In farming, youth farmers are using tech to educate and bring more young people into the sector. Joy, a 23-year-old onion farmer, told us:

“I have some clients who tell me, you're still young you can be doing a white-collar job in the office but if people could visualize agriculture could be a bigger thing, and it’s not like it’s so poor, that is why you have opted for agriculture,”said a respondent in the research.

“It’s not poverty or an education thing, you can be so passionate about it like I am. We are young people, you see, our lines of business are mostly for old people, so they don’t believe in you.”

Elsewhere, artists are changing the way people view art, by using social media to create a newfound appreciation for the creative process.

Creatives told the research that sharing their work at every step of the way makes clients less likely to bargain and more likely to value their art more highly.

Driving as a profession has also seen its reputation challenged by young people on platforms. With increased professionalism and better pay, drivers are no longer seen as negatively as in the past.

“Digital platforms are increasingly fundamental to economies across the world. We saw a wide range of engagement highlighting the innovative ways young people are using platforms not only to build their business and support their livelihoods, but in many cases to pursue work they’re passionate about,” said Chris Locke, Founder of Caribou Digital.

Shikoh Gitau of Qhala, said: “The gig economy has become an important source of livelihood for many young people in Kenya and in Africa. Understanding what motivates young people and witnessing first-hand their experiences was key to appreciating the size of the impact of the gig economy."

She was optimistic the report would create greater awareness on the needs of digital entrepreneurs among policymakers and platform creators  for  better support.