Online work keeps Kenyan job-hunters busy amid COVID-19 disruption

NAIROBI, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Every day, Joan Ndola, 25, a resident of Nairobi, Kenya's capital, wakes up at 5 am and sits behind her computer to start work.

Her employer is not in Kenya and she does not know who he is, but this does not bother Ndola because she is paid for work done.

"I work as a data entry clerk where we are given scanned documents to key into a certain software," she said on Tuesday.

This has been her work since May after she lost her job at a non-governmental organization following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya.

The online job has not only kept Ndola busy but has been her dependable source of income ever since the pandemic struck.

"Since I started after a friend introduced me to the job, I have made between 25,000 shillings (229 U.S. dollars) and 321 dollars every month. This is good money considering that I don't leave the house," she said.

Her experience is one many Kenyans can currently relate to as they turn to freelance online jobs for survival thanks to the COVID-19 disruption.

The pandemic has made it harder for citizens to get jobs as many institutions downsize and others, including the government, freeze hiring.

The part-time online jobs thus have become a source of livelihood for many, particularly during the pandemic period.

"All you need is a reliable internet and you are good to go. The good thing is that internet costs have declined, which makes it easier for freelancers like us," said Felix Ambani, a journalist who does freelance online writing.

Ambani has subscribed to an unlimited internet package that costs 13.7 dollars a month.

"This is the future of employment especially with the advent of the pandemic. You can work for as many people as possible as long as you remain disciplined," he said.

Over a million Kenyans have lost their jobs and sources of livelihoods since the pandemic started due to the squeeze companies faced, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. The World Bank in its Kenya Economic Update report released on November 25 pointed out that economic and social disruptions induced by the COVID-19 have pushed two million Kenyans into poverty.

Eliud Gachugu, Head of Ajira Digital Program, a government online jobs initiative, noted in November that with the onset of the pandemic, companies have shifted their operations online thus workers don't need to be in the physical office.

This has thus created room for part-time jobs, including for the government.

"The 8 am to 5 pm shift is slowly being wiped out. Online freelancing will soon be the new normal since it has proven to be cost-effective and fast and is attracting many young people," said Gachugu as he cited media, data entry, healthcare, education and finance as some of the areas where freelancing has gained currency.

The initiative has attracted over 18,000 youths who work for local and international organizations and is targeting a million.

Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solutions, a software development start-up in Nairobi, noted that Kenya is ripe for boom in online jobs as it has a faster internet connection.

"The country also has higher smartphone uptake and highly skilled people who can offer a variety of services," said Mwaso.

He added that with the pandemic having pushed most people away from offices, online work is the future of jobs in Kenya not only for freelancers but also for those who are fully employed.

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