Digital Economy: Kenya’s ICT Ministry Launches White Paper on Talent Cultivation

The purpose of this whitepaper is to generate evidence to support Kenyan policymakers in developing a country-level strategy on talent cultivation for the digital economy.

ICT CS Joseph Mucheru at the launch of a White Paper on ICT Talent Cultivation for Kenya's Digital Economy commissioned by Huawei Kenya and UNESCO. The paper aims at supporting evidence-based policymaking and strategies on talent acquisition.

Kenya’s Ministry of ICT has published a whitepaper that provides evidence to support policymakers in developing a country-level strategy on talent cultivation for the digital economy.

Titled ‘ICT Talent Cultivation for Kenya’s Digital Economy’, found out that the country’s progress towards the digital economy is still in its early days. It is ranked in the top 3 or 5 in Africa in most indexes but lower in the global context.

For instance, Kenya is ranked 70 out of 79 countries by the Huawei Global Connectivity Index (2020), 84 out of 134 countries by Network Readiness Index (2020) and 105 out 158 countries by UNCTAD’s 2021 readiness for frontier technology index.

However, there is future demand for ICT skills with 50-55% of jobs in Kenya expected to depend on digital skills by 2030, up from 25-30% in 2019.

“Agriculture will account for 35-40 %, industry 45- 50 % and services 60-65 %. Cumulatively some 32 million ICT skills training opportunities will have been created by then, 21 million will be basic ICT skills (foundational), 1.9 million intermediate skills and 1.3 million advanced skills,” part of the whitepaper reads.

Published through a joint partnership between Huawei and UNESCO the whitepaper not only provides research findings on the situation of Kenya’s ICT Talent development but also provides clear guidelines and recommendations to better improve the current programs in place by stakeholders including academia, industry and government.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) ushered in a new era of economic disruption within Africa paving the way for digital transformation. It has the potential to transform the social-economic development of the entire continent. 

To achieve this, the white paper recommends the development of an ICT talent cultivation strategy, the establishment of a national ICT skills database, the improvement of academia-industry-collaboration and support for upscaling private sector initiatives and certification programs, revisiting the process of ICT curricula review, and implementation of policy incentives for private sector participation in ICT talent cultivation.

Leveraging the Power of the Digital Economy to Achieve Kenya Vision 2030

The launch of the whitepaper was officiated by Ministry of ICT’s Cabinet Secretary Joseph Mucheru, the University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Prof. Stephen Kiama, Huawei Deputy CEO Public Affairs Ms Fiona Pan, Ministry of Education Assistant Director for Technical Education Mr Ephraim Munene, and UNESCO’s Senior Program Specialist Dr Partey Samuel.

“This transformation requires a massive investment in the relevant skills set that will allow for the youth and the old alike to partake and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital economy and the gig economy,” stated CS Joseph Mucheru. 

Dr Samuel Partey, Program Specialist, UNESCO highlighted the importance of partnerships in ICT talent development and noted UNESCO’s collaboration with the private sector: “UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa believes in the power of ICT for good, and signed a milestone agreement with Huawei in 2019 to enhance digital skills to achieve SDGs, which is also an integral part to the program of equaling quality education in Huawei’s digital inclusion initiative TECH4ALL”.

The pandemic did catapult the digital economy across the world, and Kenya is no exception. It is therefore projected that by 2026, the digital economy will account for 25% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), up from 15.5 % in 2016. 

While Africa expects the digital economy to contribute about 5.2% of its GDP by 2025, Kenya’s digital economy is expected to generate 9.24% of the total GDP by 2025, contributing to the projected 33% growth of the gig economy within the same period. 

This, amongst other factors, demonstrates the significance of the digital economy to Kenya’s economic prospects and transformation.

“The need to improve ICT in all sectors of the Kenyan economy has been exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic; this launch is an important milestone in the right direction,” stated Prof, Stephen Kiama, Vice-Chancellor University of Nairobi.

 “Building a framework in digital skills and leveraging the tremendous opportunities for technology will help the country to improve education quality and accessibility. I want to recognize UNESCO and Huawei for their efforts towards this,” He added.

Ms Fiona Pan, Deputy CEO, Huawei Kenya highlighted Huawei’s contribution and commitment to collaboration with academia in multiple ways.

 “At Huawei, we take pride in not only helping grow the ICT infrastructure within the country but also the local ICT talent. We have various initiatives to contribute meaningfully to Kenya’s ICT development through our training programs. We provide internships, training programs, and full-time recruitment.”

Kenyan Businesses Yet to Record Digital Return on Investments: Report