Kenya’s employment gap is a growing issue as the unemployment rate increased to 9.3 % in December of 2018. It intensified by a quickly rising youth population of whom lack jobs in the formal sector thus turn to informal sector jobs such as domestic work and casual labour. The ‘gig economy’, a term used to describe task-based employment, has its sights set on changing this by reshaping careers for the next generation.
The concept of creating an income from short-term tasks is a common venture in Kenya. However, Lynk, an online platform that partners with Kenyan artisans to showcase and promote their products and services, is on a mission to make a change in the informal sector. During a policy breakfast meeting sponsored by Strathmore University Business School (SBS) in partnership with Business Advocacy Fund (BAF), Mr Chris Maclay, Chief Operating Officer at Lynk, enlightened participants on how Lynk is disrupting the business ecosystem. During the event, replete with business and finance journalists, Mr Maclay narrated how his personal experience seeking a plumbers’ service drove him to understand the importance of Lynk.
Lynk has seized the growth potential of the gig economy to provide a source of consistent work for the Kenyan artisans. Mr Maclay pointed out that, “currently the informal sector, is marred by uncertainty, a lack of social protections and inadequacies,” however, lynk are working at creating trust between the artisans and their clients.
Mr Maclay gave the 360-degree perspective, making it known that worldwide, technology platforms that operate as non-traditional employers are hastily growing. In the United States of America, platforms like Uber and Airbnb have led to the rise of the gig economy. However, a growing population of workers are opting for flexible gig work as opposed to formal, contracted employment. In China, Alibaba, a Chinese multinational conglomerate holding company, boasts millions of participating small and medium businesses of which Alibaba represents their only sales channel. The potential for gig platforms to provide a source of consistent work and support for artisans is even more exciting in Kenya as these platforms are set to propel the informal sector.
However, in developed countries such as the United States of America gig workers often have college degrees or formal sector experience, most informal sector workers in Kenya lack this educational foundation and soft skills. To address this gap, Lynk invests in on-boarding and upskilling, which is done in part through partnerships with tertiary institutions, guaranteeing quality work and accountability for the company. Lynk also provides services that are often unavailable like logistics, warehousing support and material wholesaling.
The future of the gig economy is promising, with companies like Lynk who are a valuable source of data and service delivery for enormous populations of hard-to-reach and historically underutilized workers. We look forward to it serving as both a compelling source of jobs and income, as well as an active channel for formalization, inclusion, and economic development.
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