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Columnists

Opportunities galore for youth in the digital age

Many young Kenyans spend upwards of six hours a day on social media. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

About seven years ago, Joy Kendi decided to indulge her love for fashion and all things lifestyle. Still in university and living on a small student budget, she began to pay more attention to what international fashion bloggers were doing, and decided she could do it too since she already had the three things she needed to get started: passion, a camera phone, and access to the Internet.

Fast forward to today, and she has amassed a following of 150,000 on Instagram and over 19,000 subscribers on YouTube. Now a brand ambassador for internationally recognised brands such as Ciroc and Samsung, Joy has over the last one year worked as a full time content creator, turning what began as a hobby into a thriving business. Her advice to the young people who seek her out for mentorship? “Think outside the box.

With the Internet, you can do anything. You don’t have to be solving a big societal need – though you should if you can – all you need to do is fulfil a need.” It sounds simple enough. But the real challenge lies in replicating her success across the millions of Kenyan youth looking for meaningful employment.

Many of them already spend upwards of six hours a day on social media anyway, so can the Internet give them what they’re looking for?

The pace of technological change has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world.

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In sub-Saharan Africa, this change has become intimately intertwined with addressing youth unemployment by harnessing human innovation.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2018, technological advances such as ubiquity of high speed Internet and widespread adoption of big data analytics are set to dominate 2018-2022 as positive drivers of business growth.

With a continent of 1.3 billion people, over 50 per cent of whom are aged below 25 years, and the fastest Internet penetration growth rate (up 20 per cent compared to 2017, according to the annual Digital In 2018 report), Africa’s youthful population and rapid adoption of technology could place it at the centre of future global growth. But only if we give young people the opportunities they need to improve their lives.

The Internet specifically, has the potential to address youth unemployment, creating valuable opportunities for prosperity and individual growth. In Kenya for instance, where youth unemployment stands at about 30 per cent, affordable Internet access and smartphone penetration create increasingly attractive self-employment opportunities for young people in towns.

Digital progress is opening avenues through which young people cannot only create employment for themselves, but build sustainable businesses that are offering meaningful work to other young people.

The Internet is for Africa’s youth, a powerful resource whose usefulness goes far beyond keeping them connected to family and friends; it is increasingly becoming a source of livelihood.

For sub-Saharan Africa, the greatest long-term benefits of this age are likely to be found in the promotion of home-grown digital creators and designers, not just digital users.

SYLVIA MULINGE, Chief Customer Officer, Safaricom.



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