By Sebuh Haileleul, Microsoft East Africa Country Manager
For years, Nairobi has been the cradle of technological innovation in Kenya, and the center of the country’s thriving tech ecosystem, famously known as Silicon Savannah. Innovation spaces have sprouted across the city and in fact the trend is fast spreading to other major towns across the country. Kenya’s attractiveness to technologists and investors is on the rise and one of the contributing factors is an energetic group of young population with statistics showing that in Kenya, 62% of the population comprises youth aged below 24 years.
It is on the back of this that the government and the private sector stakeholders are deliberately dedicating more resources to increase opportunities in the digital space. This comes in the wake of the realisation that the youthful population, who are the main players in the digital space, are key sculptors in shaping an improved economy for a country.
According to the Kenya Youth Report 2016 by the Aga Khan University, people aged 15 to 24 are striving to get a good education with the aim being to satiate the high appetite to occupy the expanding digital opportunities. As enthusiastic users of the latest technology, they are creating their own opportunities using social platforms, cloud software and other digital tools.
There is growing recognition that we need to find ways to harness this drive and commitment of our young people and leverage their unique skills. Technology has changed the way young people find or carry out work. For instance, they are shunning newspaper classifieds in favour of online job listings and social networks. Young entrepreneurs are using social media to promote businesses; others are deploying cloud platforms to get up-and-running with new services or offering mobile payments to customers. This comes at a time when stakeholders, both private and government affiliated, are making deliberate efforts to bridge the digital divide by developing and expanding ICT infrastructure across the country.
If correctly harnessed, the expansion of these digital spaces means that the existing narrative of crime and unemployment will change. In fact, it has always been a known fact that young people give more at a younger age. Youths are seeking opportunities to use their specific skills and expertise in a more hands-on way as they look to take personal action on issues that they feel passionately about. In other words, this generation is inspired to fully applying themselves and their talents in ways that will change the world.
Therefore, initiatives like KuHustle platform and Ajira by the Ministry of ICT underscores the increased recognition that young people are now more than ever ready to apply their talent and creativity. Recently, a partnership between Techno Brain Kenya and Microsoft Corporation birthed the first ever testing and quality assurance centre in Africa. The centre, stationed in Nairobi, Kenya, is only the fourth of such outsourced centres for Microsoft after China, Poland and India.
Initiatives like these provide a platform through which young people can fine-tune their skills, refine their interests and identify new ways to advance change throughout their careers. The partnership places Kenya as a leading global player in the technology services space and creates an avenue for attracting other technology giants to Kenya.
Kenya boasts of an agile mobile banking system, good internet connections which has become more and more affordable and a booming e-commerce platform. The testing center, another additional feather to this cap, is an opportunity to create 1000 jobs opportunities for the Kenyan youth and position Kenya as a preferred choice for highly skilled engineering, quality assurance and testing work in Africa.
Youth are one of Kenya’s most valuable assets. Through expanded digital opportunities, this resource will see the country win big on rapid growth and poverty reduction. Yes, we are making great progress as a continent towards youth empowerment, but we should never be done. That is why we continue to come up with innovative programmes to keep up with the changing times and demands of the ever-evolving world, yet at the same time presenting countless opportunities for our young people.