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Government and jobtech in Africa

Mar 2, 2022 | Unpacking the Box

By Jenn Otieno


In this series, we’ll explore how different African jobtech initiatives have leveraged the powerful combination of technology and partnerships with government to generate exponential growth. In this article, we begin by looking at three models of public and private sector collaboration for jobtech in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa.

The potential role of government in jobtech

There are multiple pathways that can help an organisation or initiative reach scale. Mass marketing can educate and inspire users to try a new product or service. Partnerships that leverage well-designed products and trusted relationships with end users can be mutually beneficial to extend the reach further than each organisation could on its own.

Technology can be a powerful tool to reach a broad base of users in a cheap and efficient way. But for many African markets, scaling of initiatives to support more effective pathways to employment – particularly as it relates to upskilling, apprenticeships, mentorship, support for the gig economy, and other workforce development efforts – can only truly reach scale when executed in collaboration with governments.

For many jobtech entrepreneurs focusing on closing the skills gap and making connections to employment, working with government is an ideal scenario. But a number of challenges inhibit organisations from pursuing this path. Innovation with government can take a different path, and work at a very different pace than private sector entrepreneurship and therefore can cause momentum or rapid evolution to lag. Government partnerships often require deep relationship development and thus significant human resources. Changes in leadership can often derail efforts or require taking multiple steps back to onboard new champions to the work.

However, if done well, the combination of technology and partnership with government can have a dual multiplier effect that allows for the rapid and wide scale reach that’s necessary to address the African youth employment challenge. In this article, we’ll look at three examples of African jobtech partnerships to better understand what governments and their private sector counterparts are co-creating in the jobtech space.

🇪🇹 Ethiopia: FROG Economy Development with the Jobs Creation Commission

Ethiopia’s service sector is growing and has the potential to meaningfully contribute to GDP, with estimates reaching as high as 20% by 2030. To address this opportunity and simultaneously tackle the challenges of sustainable job creation and youth employment, the government of Ethiopia looked to the digital entrepreneurship space to inform its Plan of Action for policy, talent development and technology interventions. The Jobs Creation Commission (JCC), a multi-stakeholder initiative founded in 2018 under the Prime Minister’s office, had a clear mandate to lead Ethiopia’s job creation agenda. The JCC coordinates and supports the job creation efforts of Federal and Regional public institutions, private sector actors and development partners. Charged with the task of promoting and supporting innovations, entrepreneurship programs and engagement of the private sector for job creation, the JCC has looked to the “FROG” economy to accelerate job creation:

The JCC developed a taskforce of public and private sector players, including JTA member Laurendeau & Associates, to enable and strengthen linkages between the elements of the FROG (freelancing, outsourcing, gig) economy. Brought together in September 2020, the taskforce’s goal was to make FROG a sector recognized by the Government as a strategic pillar of Economic Reform and to create strategies and interventions to help Ethiopia leapfrog into a mature FROG economy. The taskforce collaboratively designed 48 strategic interventions, and a FROG integrated Public Private Partnership Platform (iP4) was formed.

In September 2021, the taskforce evolved into a FROG Community with 30+ public and private sector players contributing to the development of the FROG ecosystem in Ethiopia. This community will play a critical role in helping the government achieve its goal of developing 20 million new jobs by 2030. The community has completed roughly 10 of the strategic initiatives thus far and will continue to work together with UNDP and other private sector collaborators through 2025. In October 2021, the JCC transformed into a Ministry with an even larger mandate including TVET and more.

🇰🇪 Kenya: Digital Jobs for Youth with Ajira

Kenya has a youthful population, with 75% of the population under the age of 35. Of these approximately 17% are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and for those that are working, 80% of those jobs are in the informal sector. To support the transitions of young people into the workforce and meet the goal of transforming Kenya into a digital economy (as outlined in the Digital Economy Blueprint), the government has looked to jobtech to find opportunities for 1 million Kenyan youth to earn a decent wage from digital and digitally-enabled jobs annually.

 The Ajira Digital Program is a government initiative driven by the Ministry of ICT and the Ministry of Innovations and Youth Affairs to empower young people to access digital job opportunities. The program seeks to position Kenya as a choice labour destination for multinational companies as well as encourage local companies and the public sector to create digital work. The main objectives are to: 

  • Raise the profile of digital work
  • Promote a mentorship and collaborative learning approach to finding digital work
  • Provide Kenyans with access to digital work 
  • Promote Kenya as a destination for online workers

In its first phase of work from 2016-2018, Ajira worked with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), with support from Rockefeller Foundation, to host trainings and build awareness of online work opportunities for Kenyan youth. This phase of work reached over 7000 Kenyan youth.

In the second phase of work from 2020-2022, now with support from Mastercard Foundation under the Young Africa Works initiative, the focus has shifted to both the supply and demand sides of online work. Ajira, in partnership with eMobilis, is building supply side capacity through training and mentorship, and in partnership with KEPSA, increasing demand for locally available dignified work including a pilot to outsource the digitisation of the Kenyan judiciary system and support to digitise 1000+ small and medium enterprises. 

Through partnerships with private sector players, this government initiative will continue to unlock digital job opportunities and build the skills of youth to take on this work in the digital economy.

🇿🇦 South Africa: A platform to support pathways to employment

South Africa is challenged with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world (youth unemployment stands at 49.79 percent in the second quarter of 2021, according to StatsSA). In 2011, the South African government created the Jobs Fund, South Africa’s treasury initiative in partnership with the Development Bank of South Africa that seeks to help create jobs by supporting initiatives that generate employment in innovative ways. Over the last 10 years, the Jobs Fund has invested in jobtech companies, including SweepSouth and Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator. 

In 2021, the government of South Africa, in partnership with Harambee, launched the zero-rated platform, a multichannel, data-free site young people can use to access learning and earning opportunities. 

This platform has been integrated with the government’s national Pathway Management Network, a partnership between the National Youth Development Agency, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, Department of Science and Innovation, Department of Employment and Labour, Department of Higher Education and Training, Department of Small Business Development and the Youth Employment Service. The government has seen the integration of the jobtech platform as crucial to its ability to address youth unemployment at scale. In an October 2021 Presidential letter, Ramaphosa highlighted the reach of the platform to 940,000 young people and confirmed, “The use of new technologies in offering employment opportunities has made recruitment much easier, quicker and more transparent.” Just last year, SAYouth platform was used to pathway over 300,000 young people ino teacher assistant roles.
In our next article, we’ll explore challenges, innovative approaches and lessons learnt from these three models, and how actors like Harambee built their effective partnership with the government. If you’re interested in digging into some insights from public-private partnerships in the TVET sector, check out this toolkit co-created by the members of Umsizi Fund’s Peer Learning Network: Strengthening Impact Through Public Private Partnerships.

The author is the Co-Founder of EdTech East Africa and Education Design Unlimited


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