- Digital Transformation at Counties Enhancing Creation of Jobs for Young People and Growth of Businesses and Economy;
Ajira Digital organized a forum for SMEs in Makueni County to explore emerging opportunities brought by the digital transformation that
will help enhance productivity for these businesses while creating more work opportunities for young people in Makueni and across the country.
The forum held at Kusyombuguo Hotel in Wote town, brought together businesses across Makueni, government representatives, technology
providers, and young people offering digital services among other digital economy players to discuss opportunities within Makueni County to digitize and create jobs.
The forum comes right after the recent tour to Silicon Valley by the Government of Kenya which is strategically positioning the country for consideration by the big tech and other international companies so as to enhance investment opportunities and trade relations with the United States with a particular focus on nurturing Kenya’s thriving start-up sector. The President emphasized Kenya’s young talent among other advantages within the country and this has been the main mandate of the Ajira Digital Program in promoting the country as a freelancing hub for digital and digitally-enabled work talents.
Gracing the occasion was H.E Hon. Lucy Mulili, the Deputy Governor of Makueni County where she highlighted the importance of such forums to the county as they have witnessed the impact of adopting digitization in the delivery of services and revenue collection at the County level where they have been able to save 140 million shillings. Lucy said that curbing the revenue leakage through digitization has seen them serving their people better including the improved healthcare facilities and establishment of ECDE classrooms among other projects executed within the county.
“In 2019, I was privileged to visit Dedan Kimathi University in Nyeri where I met some students who have been doing advertisements and offering security work for companies in the US while seated in Nyeri. In our County, 50% of the total population is in the labour market, that is between 18 years to 64 years of age.Keeping in mind the youth in 18-34 years of age is 27% of the total county population. With a dependency ratio of 1:1 where there are people relying on these working populations such as the minors and the elderly, investing in our young people is then very important for the development of this County,” said Lucy while explaining the benefits of digital work for young people and the solutions therein for businesses.
Dr. Ehud Gachugu, Director Ajira Digital Program at the Kenya Private Sector Alliance explained the reason they brought the forum to Makueni County stating that Makueni County is strategically positioned to influence even other counties around it in the Eastern region. He
added that businesses today should stop thinking of only the markets around them locally but also regionally and globally. He urged the businesses to focus on wider markets such as the East Africa or even Africa markets that will offer them more customers which is enabled greatly by the adoption of digital technologies.
“The ultimate results of expanding out the businesses to cover wider territories is be an expansion of work opportunities for young people. If we do not prepare opportunities for our young people then we will be losing on our innovative workforce and assets and on the other hand heighten social challenges that might affect the business environment and eventually the productivity of the businesses,” emphasized Dr. Gachugu during the forum.
Given his experience in offering digital solutions, John Mwendwa, CEO, Residence Technologies said that with a medical background, he hung up his lab coat and joined the innovation world starting a software company that offers privacy protection services.Mwenda explained that he saw a niche in the growing eCommerce world as privacy violations for online shoppers are a growing concern.He then started solutions to safeguard personal information where his customers can choose a secure and anonymous shopping experience.
Mwendwa’s story encouraged participants on the need to think outside the box and grow their entrepreneurial skills to make a dignified livelihood. This will go a long way in curbing the growing youth unemployment in Kenya with current statistics showing that 2.9 million Kenyans are without jobs. Rethinking different ways of work opportunities and empowering businessesto compete in the digital world is crucial in curbing unemployment challenges.
Speaking among the Ajira Digital implementing partners, Ruth Amoit, Program 1 Lead Ajira Centres at eMobilis, explained to the participating businesses that the digital economy is a solution for start-ups and all businesses. SMEs often have limited budgets for hiring skilled professionals hence digital talents and resources are an affordable option for accessing professionals to offer them digital services such as website development, social media engagement, and graphic design among others. Such services are important in enhancing SMEs’
online presence which will gear them up for wider and global markets.
Angelina Makau, a poultry farmer and entrepreneur from Makueni County expressed her gratitude to Ajira Digital for the workshop as she explained her drawn lessons from the forum. She said that she has been making long trips to sell her farm produce and at times could not cover ground to clear her supplies.She said that the forum has enlightened her on the need to take advantage of digital technologies to market and ship her products.
She foresees cutting on a good amount of costs and expenses which she accrues in the business. The private sector is a key component for any economic growth, hence to spur growth in counties calls for empowerment of the businesses within those counties. Already, Makueni has
embraced this through different initiatives and programs including the establishment of the Makueni Tech and Innovation Hub which aims to foster innovation and scale up technologies.
The hub also allows enterprise creation, employment, and competitiveness by providing open spaces for entrepreneurs and programmers.
The forum was a great step towards sensitizing businesses on the emerging opportunities in the digital space that they can consider adopting while expanding work opportunities for young people in Makueni and Kenya at large.