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ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has called on Kenyan youth to embrace online jobs which he said had increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mucheru stated that though millions of employees globally lost their livelihoods when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, opportunities for online workers improved significantly in areas of transcription, digital marketing, virtual assistance, data entry and management and online writing. In a speech read on his behalf by the Ministry’s Chief Administrative Secretary Maureen Mbaka during the launch of Egerton University Ajira Digital Clubthe Cabinet Secretary said the government has eased access to digital opportunities in the country through the Ajira digital Programme. As the world struggles with social-economic challenges brought by Covid-19 pandemic, online workers have not been affected because their workspace is safe to conduct business and deliver services. It’s high time Kenyan youth who constitute 75 per cent of the population embraced technological changes and innovations to promote remote working as alternative employment,” the CS said.Online work is the way to go. The opportunities in the digital work space by far surpass the number of digital workers. I urge our youth to enroll in the Ajira Digital Programme so that they can benefit and make online work as an alternative employment. He indicated that the ministry in collaboration with parliamentarians has opened Ajira youth empowerment centres in all constituencies, where the youth can enroll and get trained. Mucheru also revealed that his Ministry was partnering with the judiciary to offer online transcription jobs to the youth. “We have rolled out on pilot basis online transcription jobs in law courts in Mombasa, Kisumu and Nairobi where over 700 youths are engaged. Every year we offer a chance to 400 youths to intern with the government and private sector in readiness to enter the online market Globally, many countries have invested a lot in online work and they are generating a lot of revenue in billions to their respective economies and that is our absolute goal as a country,” he added. The Ajira empowerment centres seek to impart skills on the youth to help them secure temporary online work such as software development and transcription services in a rapidly evolving global gig economy. The Ajira programme involves hiring mentors to offer training and providing free internet connectivity and work spaces through the constituency innovation hubs, largely funded by National Government Constituencies Development Fund (NG-CDF). Buoyed by higher internet penetration, supported by rising use of smartphones, Kenya has set sights on becoming a tech hub for Africa, providing job opportunities for its growing skilled and innovative youth. Some 320 innovation hubs were set up between July 2017 and June 2020, according to a progress report by ICT and Youth Affairs ministry. “The Ajira programme will see us instill the spirit and capabilities of innovation in our citizens, creating a more technologically vibrant generation in the next decade or so. I believe this is the route to a Kenyan ‘Silicon Valley’ of the 21st century,” he said.Mucheru said the roll out of Ajira digital clubs is intended to take place in every higher-level institution and is intended to reach more youth and expand footprints of the Ajira Digital Program across the country On her part, Mbaka stated that the government was committed to establishing more Ajira Digital Clubs in universities and Technical Vocational Education Training Institutes (TVETS) countrywide as it worked towards promoting mentorship and collaborative learning approach to finding digital work. The CAS affirmed that Ajira digital clubs were intended to act as formal structures within the various higher-learning institutions to rope in new members to the Ajira digital ecosystem where citizens get access to work readiness trainings, mentorship and visibility of job opportunities in the gig economy. “We aim to equip more Kenyan Youth with skills that will enable them to earn from digital and digitally-enabled jobs. We are delighted to formalize and fully operationalize yet another Ajira digital club to train, mentor and link youth to various online jobs and enable them to earn descent wages,” Mbaka said. She added that, “Every Ajira Digital club in each institution has an Ajira patron and Ajira club champions who will be able to organize different club activities that are tailored towards involving all the students and opening up opportunities for them to learn new skills and venture into digital work’’. Egerton University Acting Vice Chancellor Prof. Isaac Kibwage said the Ajira initiative was of critical importance to Kenya’s quest to create many jobs for youths especially from universities and TVETS. Prof. Kibwage stated that the program that targets youth in and out of formal education systems was a broader strategy to create an environment for work generation and skills development as well as incubate an entrepreneurship culture amongst the youth. “Our aim was to expose our students and graduates to the opportunities in the digital workspace. The Egerton University Ajira Digital Club is run by students, for the students and will act as additional training, incubation and mentorship forums that help equip them to access digital and digitally-enabled job opportunities,” Prof. Kibwage pointed out.

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