How Safaricom Is Using Technology To Bring Economic Empowerment To Communities Around Kenya

One of the major issues hindering economic development in Kenya is unemployment. This is most prevalent among the youth.  According to a recent survey by Aga Khan University, 55% of the youth are unemployed. The youth unemployment rate is double the national level of unemployment which according to a discussion paper, Kenya Youth Employment Challenge, is at 12.7%. Youth between ages 18-25 are likely to be unemployed compared to their counterparts between 26-35 years of age. The economy is yet to create enough jobs to sustain the youth who get into the job market every year. Additionally, unemployment is rampant amongst women, especially in rural areas. Although a lot has been done over the years to ensure gender equality in most organizations, there is still a big gap left to ensure that women are included in the workforce especially in senior management.

 

 

Safaricom’s contribution to Kenya’s GDP continues to be of significant value standing at 6.5% of Kenya’s GDP. According to their 2018 Sustainability Business Report, that is a 7.7% increase in economic value from last year’s financial numbers. This is in part due to the continuous growth of their MPESA platform with over 100,000 merchants using it this year. Their commitment to Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8) is driven by providing decent work within Safaricom and its broader economic system. So far Safaricom has 5,556 employees. This year, it has sustained over 171,369 direct and indirect jobs. If the wider parameters of the economy were included, the number increases to 897,372 jobs. Majority of Safaricom employees are in their 30’s which accounts for 60% of their workforce. The other majority include people in their 20’s. Overall, Safaricom maintains a 50-50 per cent ratio between men and women. However, there is still a lot to be done to balance the gender equation in senior and executive management. Their target is to hit the 50-50 mark by the year 2020.

 

Image from https://www.safaricom.co.ke/annualreport_2018/women-in-technology.php

 

One of their initiatives to include more women in senior management workforce is the Women in Technology program. It is based on creating partnerships with tertiary institutions and visiting schools to raise awareness on potential career options among young female students. The program also works to reach and support women in marginalized societies. In 2016, Women In Technology sponsored 500 girls for a worldwide Career Mentorship Workshop. Additionally, they also work with Andela, to ensure that women get opportunities to pursue technological careers. The program also donated material goods such as books and clothes to the girls at Lorna Waddington. They also supplied sanitary towels to all the girls. Safaricom is also creating a great working environment for pregnant, nursing mothers and mothers with young children – 5 Ways Companies Can Create A Thriving Environment For Working Mothers 

Safaricom has also worked to deepen financial inclusivity through its platform M-SHWARI. Due to unemployment, most youths are advised to seek entrepreneurship to make a living. However, access to finance is a big hindrance to entrepreneurship. Platforms like M-SHWARI offer easy access to loans which is not the case with financial institutions. The average loan taken on a daily basis is Kshs 3,300. This is to show that the application is used by small business owners who need just enough money to run their business on a daily basis and make a profit.

 

Image result for digifarm safaricom
Digifarm by Safaricom. Image from https://gui2de.georgetown.edu/projects/DigiFarm

Agriculture is a major pillar of Kenya’s economic development. There is a need to invest in the sector especially as more youth are taking up farming as a means to make a living. Digifarm is a Safaricom platform that provides smallholder farmers with convenient access to a variety of services. These include discounted inputs, financing and advice on best-farming practices. So far there are over 700,000 farmers using the application. 200,000 use the platform daily. Farmers can take loans using the application for purchasing fertilizer, pesticides, and high-quality seeds. The farmer is also able to access information and financial services including tutorials and discounted products. They can also share information amongst themselves through the Connected Farmer Solution and transact money through MPESA.

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