You have probably used one of the many online mobile applications (Apps) to order for food, summon a cab, or hire labour. If not, you are likely to do it soon.
Driven by convenience purposes, this fast-growing online marketplace known as the gig economy is now creating wealth for millions of Kenyans.
The gig economy is whereby independent workers or service providers are hired on a short term or a task-by-task basis. They receive their dues upon completion of assigned tasks. They have a chance to earn money on their own schedules through online platforms like Uber, Airbnb, Glovo among others.
Worldwide the gig economy is growing rapidly thanks to globalization, technology, and investors behind platforms like Uber, Airbnb, Glovo among others.
And in Kenya, it is due to high unemployment rates among the youths backed with high Internet penetration rates and smartphone use.
According to census data released in February 2020, 5.3 million or 38.9 percent of the 13.7 young Kenyans are jobless. Data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) indicates that Kenya had 89.7 percent Internet penetration rates in 2019. With a population of about 51.58 million, 43.3 million Kenyans have access to the internet.
According to a 2019 report by Mercy Corps, the Kenyan online gig economy is valued at Ksh11.7 billion and employs 36,573 giggers. It’s expected to grow by 33 percent over the next five years, to Sh37.07 billion in 2023.
The sector will be employing a total of 93,875 gig workers, representing a growth rate of 27 percent.
George Karimi, the founder and CEO of SwiftAide, a Kenyan freelancing platform where businesses and independent professionals offer services to customers countrywide notes that as formal employment is only available to a few, the gig economy is transforming Kenya and Africa for the better; it is reducing the unemployment crisis that has been a thorn around the continent.
FinancialDay spoke to Karimi:
What does Swiftaide do?
Swiftaide is a Kenyan freelancing platform where businesses and independent professionals offer services to customers countrywide. It offers gigs from low to high-level skill sets and seeks to connect clients to a reliable and larger pool of quality talent, while workers simultaneously can enjoy freedom and flexibility to find jobs online.
Swiftaide’s main goal is to make it easier for people to find professional help for everyday tasks. Along with this, it also helps in eradicating unemployment as it allows skilled graduates (electricians, plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, etc.) to get hired on-demand basis.
So, if you are looking for highly skilled consultants in various industries ranging from health to law to construction etc…, then this is the place to be!
How many jobs has your platform generated so far?
We have about 300 vetted service providers and about 400 registered businesses and professionals.
Did you just wake up one day and decided you want to invest in an online gig platform?
The business idea came about in 2017 but we started the app in 2018. The idea came about when one day my cleaner was sick and I couldn’t find a replacement. All my clothes were dirty and so I thought about having a platform where you can hail a cleaner, electrician, plumber just as you hail cabs.
For the business side of the app. The idea came about when one day my child was sick and we needed to see an ophthalmologist. It took us weeks trying to find one. That’s when I thought that professionals need a platform where they can have a profile for a small fee so that people can reach them easily.
How much capital have you so far injected into Swiftaide?
I have used Ksh1.5 million to create an app, website and market the platform.
And how do you make your money?
Swift Aide has two parts, the business side of the app and the on-demand side of the app. We make money by getting a 15 percent commission for every job done through the app. The platform also charges subscription fees for businesses and professionals who want to have a profile in our application but business registration is now free to cushion the many businesses struggling due to COVID-19.
Premium subscription is Ksh199 and gold Sh499 per month.
Swiftaide does not fix prices for service providers. This gives them the liberty to charge what they dim fit. It also leaves room for the client to negotiate as it is in our Kenyan culture to bargain. Services like boda boda, tuk tuk and prime movers depend on fuel prices, which are adjusted every month. Determining what to charge essentially makes them their own boss.
The client pays when he accepts an offer from a service provider but Swiftaide holds that money until the task is complete and the client is satisfied is when it is released to the service provider.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs seeking to tap into Kenya’s digital economy?
I would advise them to be patient and learn the market as they develop their product. People might not want what you think they want.
Client and service providers’ safety is a challenge even for established gig companies like Uber. How does Swiftaide achieve this?
All service providers (aides) upload their identification documents and relevant certificates (driving licence, insurance (boda boda and tuk tuk), liquor licence (liquor stores), business licence (water shops and cooking gas distributors), and education certificates (skilled labour)) and are thoroughly vetted ensuring they are the right people for the job.
We also ask them for their official identification documents and academic certificates for a skilled workforce.
Where do you get the motivation to run Swiftaide given the demanding and dynamic nature of the online business?
It’s being in the present but living in the future. This is the digital age and so many things will solely depend on technology as the Covid-19 pandemic has proved. Post COVID world will consist of most of the population working remotely.
What’s the future of the online gig economy in Kenya?
The rise of the gig economy holds a wealth of opportunities for organizations and workers alike. Organizations want to cut costs and improve their agility to meet constantly changing consumer demands. Workers crave flexibility and control. By working together and collaborating on ways to overcome the potential risks, organizations and giggers alike can ride a rising tide that will lift all boats to economic prosperity and performance.
Three main lessons you can highlight in your entrepreneurial journey?
- Success does not come in a day week month or even a year. You have to be patient.
- You must have a clear vision if you are to sustain a business. It is the vision that drives when everything seems uncertain.
- Do not be afraid. Fail and fail as many times as possible since success comes from failure.
What are your plans?
Swiftaide aims to collaborate with tertiary institutions to get their graduates to register to allow them to practice as they wait for formal employment which is hard to come by nowadays.
General advice to jobless Kenyans?
I would advise them to adopt technology, as this is the future. Just as a farmer would buy a tractor, they should be buying smartphones and doing jobs on digital platforms. Swiftaide aims to give jobless Kenyans a chance to earn a living, especially in these difficult times.