Technology

Firm taps gig economy to expand across borders

GIG-ECONOMY
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Summary

  • The Kenyan gig economy is gathering momentum on the back of expanding start-ups and enterprises, pushing up demand for technology skills.
  • Kenyans are also increasingly signing up for online gig work with local, regional and global companies that require high digital skills.

The Kenyan gig economy is gathering momentum on the back of expanding start-ups and enterprises, pushing up demand for technology skills.

Kenyans are also increasingly signing up for online gig work with local, regional and global companies that require high digital skills.

“The need for technology skills is exploding. There is no new start-up that will go online without technology skills,” said Leul Girma, chief operating officer at Gebeyam, an African online talent marketplace.

“Kenya is booming in terms of the number of start-ups coming up and for all of them the common denominator is the need for technology talent.”

The company that helps clients bridge tech skills gaps, says the country has become a top source for technology skills such as app developers, architects, project managers, business analysts, content writers, digital marketing and user interface.

The Kenyan digital economy has tremendously grown in the last few years. A report by Mercy Corps released in August 2019, showed online gig economy was concentrated in ride-hailing industry and online rental such as Airbnb, while the online uptake of professional services offered by gig workers was very slow.

A report by WeTracker placed Kenya at the top in Africa with the highest number of online freelancers at 18,042 by end of 2019, ranking 15th globally. It was followed by South Africa (12,354), Nigeria (7,897) and Morocco (7,553).

The number of active freelancers were 2,540 in the period, representing 14.1 percent of the population. But analysts say the number could be high.

The pandemic has rendered most employed workers jobless, stretching the gig economy.

The shift from working from home as seen people take on multiple jobs for flexibility and financial security. The hybrid model is expected to continue in the next year.

Mercy Corps said the online Kenyan gig economy would grow by 33 percent to Sh37.95 billion ($345 million) in 2023. The sector was projected to be employing a total of 93,875 gig workers, representing a growth rate of 27 percent.

Globally, the freelance platforms market size is projected to reach Sh1.01 trillion ($9.19 billion) by 2026, from Sh373.3 billion ($3.39 billion) in 2019, at a compound annual growth rate of 15.3 percent over 2021-2026.

“Covid-19 has also pushed demand as people move to digital marketing,” Mr Girma said.

“When it comes to technology, there is a huge margin problem of what companies or businesses need and what is out there. But Africa has a huge wealth of technology talents and other talents. So we're bridging that gap.”

Skills in demand are product owner, web and digital marketers, content writers, graphic designers, cybersecurity experts, mobile app developers and integration developers.

Most businesses are looking to integrate their platforms with mobile payment services or banks, hence the rising uptake of technology.

‘’Most companies I have encountered want a product owner because they want somebody to build it for them since they don't know how to do it. Next is mobile app. That's our biggest challenge right now because the developers are still coming up, the need is too much,’’ Mr Girma said.

The market for this skills consists of start-ups, logistics firms and enterprises unlike government parastatals and agencies that would mostly deploy large consulting companies.

Gebeya allows clients to visit the website looking for ready talents for projects, links them and earns commissions for those contracted.

Only 20 percent of people who apply and are vetted make it to the platform.

“In our talent data, Kenya is in every category. Is there a talent that we can’t find here? I doubt it,’’ he adds.

However, there is the lack of niche skills or new technologies such as artificial intelligence, data engineering for manipulation of data, machine learning. He says, however these skills are coming up, but have not matured.

The firm pools talents from 27 countries from Africa.

The company which was founded in Ethiopia, was set up in Kenya in 2017 and has expanded to Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Rwanda and UK.

Other companies such as Andela, a New York –based start-up with operations in Kenya, have also been training African software engineering and helping plug skills gaps in tech industry.

In 2019, however it laid off 175 of its junior engineers and staff in Kenya as part of a major restructuring plan citing a demand shift for more senior engineers.

Before the layoffs, Andela had hired 1,500 software engineers with its largest engineering centres in Lagos, Nairobi, Kampala, and Kigali, with a growing presence in Cairo and Accra.Globally, freelancing platform include Upworks and Toptal.

Gebeya plans to do consultancy for clients.

“We also want to expand into photography, auditors, videographers, accountants and lawyers,” Mr Girma added.