Kenya plans to start a programme to list skilled refugees in a digital database to enable them get work from international organisations interested in outsourcing services.
The Ajira Digital Programme will be implemented by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and funded by the MasterCard Foundation, both of which say they will help push for adoption of refugees into legal work by also providing constant training opportunities.
KEPSA, with the Amahoro Coalition, a platform of private organisations in the region, will target refugees in Kakuma and Dadaab, Kenya’s refugee centres that host more than 400,000 people.
Nairobi is taking advantage of the programme to entice refugees to leave the camps once they get legal work.
Kenya has traditionally allowed refugees to stay out of camps if they prove they can afford basic needs on their own.
But the refugee camps have had security issues in the past with Nairobi promising to close the two camps down on several occasions, citing terror threats.
Last year, however, Kenya’s Interior Ministry agreed to stagger the closure of the camps based on voluntary departure as well as gradual programmes to enable refugees live normally in the country or find work abroad.
Officials did not indicate how many refugees will initially benefit from the Ajira programme, but they said that many refugees in camps may face challenges due to lack of adequate skills, limited movement, limited access to formal education, and lack of a form of identity.
“We have a lot of talent waiting to be tapped among the refugee population in Kenya,” said Dr Ehud Gachugu, Project Director- Ajira Digital Program and Youth Employment at KEPSA.
“We have seen many examples of bright but marginalised young people delivering quality work to global clients through online platforms. Our aim is, therefore, to help grow and harness this talent to also deliver work for our local businesses, thus creating even more opportunities for refugees to add value not only in their local communities but also nationally.”
Ajira Digital Programme initially only served Kenyans with beneficiaries now at 1.9 million people since 2020 when it was launched for Kenyans.
A study dubbed ‘Private Sector Digital Outsourcing Practices in Kenya’ further indicates that 59 percent of the private sector in Kenya are currently outsourcing digital services with another 75 percent intending to outsource in the future.
Another study by the Amahoro Coalition and the International Trade Center (ITC) on “Kenya’s Private Sector Digital Outsourcing Landscape and Its Potential to Support Refugee Economic Inclusion” indicates that a lack of awareness of the skills and potential available among the refugee community is the greatest barrier to companies working with refugees. This is despite companies that had previously worked with refugee freelancers expressing satisfaction with their ability to deliver quality, timely and cost-effective work.
Kenya’s two refugee camps are located in Turkana and Garissa counties, some of the driest areas in Kenya. They host refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, DR Congo and Burundi.