Embracing the Gig Economy in Kenya

Mary is your usual Kenyan youth trying to make ends meet. Having trained as a professional housekeeper, Mary always relied on the traditional full-time jobs.

Her luck however hit a dead end when she lost her job in one of the prestigious hotels in Nairobi. This was after working for the hotel for 5 years. With nothing to do, Mary joined an online platform where she created an account citing in detail about her level of professionalism.

It has been a year now and Mary no longer cries about losing her job anymore. As we sit having coffee, she receives a job request through an app that she has on her mobile phone. A client is in need of her services. Interestingly, she tells me that through that app, she gets numerous job offers.

She has even trained a couple of other young people who always come in handy whenever she is overwhelmed with job offers.

Mary is just one of the many people who have embraced the gig economy in Kenya. The gig economy can be defined as a scenario where people opt for temporary and flexible jobs as compared to full time jobs.

The gig economy has seen a tremendous growth in the country over the past few years. This has greatly been attributed to augmented internet penetration and the influx of mobile phones.

This coupled with the large number of unemployed youths has led to the significant growth that has been witnessed in the gig economy.

A recent research that was recently carried out by Mercy Corps Youth Impact Lab revealed that the online gig economy in Kenya is valued at a whopping $109 million.

It was further estimated that the gig economy has employed a sum of 36,573 Kenyans. The growth in the gig economy is expected to see a 33% annual growth rate in the next 5 years.

If the 33% growth rate is to be realized, it will mean that the total size of the gig economy will reach $345 million while the number of employed gig workers will rise to 93,875.

With so many young people embracing gig work, it is important to note that the gig economy comprises of so many jobs. No matter what profession you are in, as long as you are not into full time employment, you are part of the gig economy.

A part time professor who offers his services in different institutions, a web designer who works on contract basis, a freelance writer who writes articles for a publication on part time basis and a doctor who offers his services in different hospitals are all part of the gig economy.

So, what makes gig work so popular

  • Most of the tech savvy millennial prefer online gig work as it offers a lot of flexibility and freedom.
  • Gig jobs also offer the benefit of earning premium for skills and services rendered.
  • Most companies prefer gig workers as they usually have specialized expertise for handling particular projects.
  • The fact that gig workers are easily accessible also makes them the perfect choice for employers.
  • Gig work requires little capital. For example, with just a little capital, our young people can easily venture into online gig work such as online rentals (Airbnb), ride hailing platforms (taxify), and they can also register on online professional work platforms.

Although online gig work has been cited to have a number of disadvantages such as not being able to offer stable incomes and social securities, there are some people who are reaping big from freelancing.

Other than having the advantage of working from the comfort of your home and being in a position to decline contracts that you are not happy working on, talent freelancing also create a lot of numerous opportunities for professional workers.

According to Vadim Dagman, who is a talent freelancer within the Toptal network and who is said to have accumulated millions of dollars in earnings over the past five or six years, freelancing;

  • Gives you an opportunity to work on projects at various stages of their development.
  • Gives you an opportunity to meet and create relationships with more people as a freelancer as compared to working inhouse fulltime.
  • Gives you a chance to oversee projects in their infancy stage as well as dictating how they develop.
  • The advent of online platforms helps freelancers overcome the challenge of endorsing themselves. This is because, such platforms help establish relationships for the freelancers.

With so many people seeking to move from the traditional full-time jobs, the gig economy becomes a force that we must reckon with.

The high number of university students graduating each year has led to the high rate of unemployment. However, the easy access to the Internet has opened up the door to numerous opportunities.

You can buy and sell clothes by creating an online store. A mason can post pictures of his masonry expertise on the many social media sites and he will start receiving job offers straight from his phone.

Today, SMEs, household services, healthcare and the hospitality industries have unleashed a whole lot of new job opportunities.

This is because, many of the new generation employees are seeking for the type of employment that allows them to set their own terms.

The gig economy comprises of three separate components namely;

Consumers; The people (clients) who are sourcing for specific services.

Independent Workers; They get paid for performing or delivering certain services.

Platforms; They connect the consumers to the workers. This is usually done through the use of app-based technologies.

The success of the gig economy in Kenya will only be achieved if all the three components mentioned above are treated fairly.

How gig work can be made more appealing

  • Gig based platforms can offer better services to their workers.
  • Although it is almost impossible to offer gig workers all the benefits that full-time employees enjoy, clients and platforms should at least strive to offer perks to the workers.
  • Training and better income can really motivate and encourage the gig workers to take up even more gigs.

Conclusion

A lot of transformation is being wrought by the gig economy. The unemployment crisis is greatly being reduced and we can only embrace this new working trend for a better Kenya.

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