The digital economy is expanding rapidly in Kenya. Covid-19 has accelerated growth as Kenyans, especially teenagers, have now realized the potential of making a living on digital platforms. The pandemic led not only to a health crisis, but also to an economic crisis.
The measures imposed by the Ministry of Health, such as physical distancing and cessation of freedom of movement, contributed to the livelihood of platforms becoming increasingly important. The logisticians were seen as essential deliverers and service providers.
Small and medium-sized businesses switched to online shopping. Agriculture was not neglected either, because a social and online farmer was created if the measures set were observed. Offline gigs for musicians and creatives declined, so they focused on their digital platforms. These cases show the impact of Covid-19 on the shift towards platforms.
Platform livelihoods are the way people work in the digital marketplace. These include e-commerce, gig economy, content creation and sharing economy.
Role of platform livelihoods
Technology has led to the digitization of several sectors; Hence, it is the driver of the platform’s livelihood. This created several jobs that did not exist 15 years ago. This includes social media managers, virtual assistants, SEO analysts, telemedicines, content marketers, and automated driving jobs.
Studies by Qhala and Caribou Digital in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation (2021) have clearly shown the role of platform livelihoods in logistics, e-commerce, agriculture and the creative industries. In the logistics industry, for example, motorcycle transport, which is commonly referred to as “boda boda, ‘ become more dignified through digitization.
The increasing use of the internet has inspired logistics companies to invest in the app-based delivery system. Accordingly, the platforms facilitate supply and demand by ensuring that drivers are available and attractive to customers.
Platforms in Kenya include Bolt, Busy Boda, Glovo, Jumia, Pick-Up Mtaani, Sendy, and UberEats. The demand for these services has grown steadily and has become an important employment opportunity for the youth. Given the growth in the industry, other players like the boda investment plan have emerged to enable motorists to save for the future.
In the past, most MSMEs were physically active and their advertising was mainly through the print media, radio, television and selected commercial functions. The rise of e-commerce and social commerce has enabled companies to scale faster, achieve greater reach, quickly coordinate order fulfillment, and efficiently manage customer relationships.
The companies participating in the Platforms Livelihood report come from a variety of sectors such as electronics and merchandise, fashion and beauty, household and kitchen products. The formal and social media platforms have diversified the way businesses advertise through SEO, paid ads, working with social media influencers, and online referrals. Given the high unemployment rates, the teens can explore social commerce and formal e-commerce platforms and grow their businesses.
The agricultural sector was continuously operated physically in the local markets, often through intermediaries. However, with digitization, some farmers have turned to digital marketplaces and others to “social farming” where they use social media to sell their products.
Using the online platforms has enabled farmers to eliminate brokers and cartels; in this way they have direct access to their customers and sell their agricultural products at competitive prices.
In Kenya, the agricultural sector accounts for around 34.1% of the country’s GDP. Hence, it is a vast area for youth to explore. By using social and formal online platforms, they gain access to direct customers and increase sales.
The creative sector consists mainly of the youth. Initially, musicians made a living by offline means such as merchandising, performing live, royalties from the broadcast media, and selling physical copies of their music. In contrast, the visual arts were dependent on exhibitions, art museums and galleries. These offline resources still exist; However, the online platforms have created new ways of distributing content to new target groups and multiple regions.
As a result, the creatives in the online platforms have two modes of distribution. One of them is the formal distribution platforms that have defined monetization streams and the social media channels to raise awareness and reach a wider audience. In particular, the social media platforms also enable creative people to influence art evaluation; Hence, buyers are willing to pay a higher price. This means that young people in the creative industries can use these platforms and earn a decent living.
When all is said and done…
The future of work lies in the platform livelihood. The four sectors highlighted above have shown how digitization has affected people’s livelihoods via online platforms.
Nonetheless, the workers and salespeople using these platforms need new skills, digital sensitivities and new competencies in order to survive on these platforms. The research by Qhala and Caribou (2021), called “Platform Livelihoods: The quality of the digital experiences of Kenyan youth in logistics, e-commerce, agriculture and the creative industries “, found that the youth is the highest segment of the population who have a platform livelihood.
Therefore, due to the minimal barriers in using these platforms, many young people have chosen them to solve the high unemployment rate. Yet most of them lack the financial resources to grow and develop their businesses. As a result, they need support from private institutions and the government, for example through grants and tax incentives. In addition, they should meet mentors in order to increase their creativity and ability to innovate and to exploit their full potential via online platforms.
Source Dr. Ehud Gachugu, Project leader, Ajira Digital and Employment Program within the Kenya Private Sector Alliance.