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Investing in digital literacy for grassroots transformation in Kenya


Kenya is experiencing a “youth bulge”. At least 20% of the country’s population is made up of youth between the ages of 15 and 24. This could be a big advantage if young people have access to economic opportunities, particularly information and communication technology. But the reality is different. Currently, youth unemployment is high, estimated at about 22% in 2016.

This trend is true for the most beautiful coastal part of Kenya. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the coastal region has around 3.3 million people, spanning the six (6) counties of Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, Mombasa, Taita Taveta and Tana River. This means there are about 660,000 young people who are not economically independent.

Globally, information and communication technology (ICT) has been recognised as having the power to transform economies and societies. This is particularly true through the sharing of knowledge and information. This is why the Coding for Employment initiative was developed by the African Development Bank with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, which, through its Digital Jobs Africa strategy, has financed the implementation of 10 pilot centres of excellence (CoE) in Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda.

Coding for Employment aims to launch Africa’s next generation of digitally enabled youth workforce. The programme intends to achieve this by establishing 130 technology centres of excellence across Africa, five of which will be in Kenya. Each centre is expected to train at least 1,800 young people between the ages of 15 and 35 over the next two years, equipping them with relevant technical skills at basic, intermediary and advanced levels.

A unique aspect of Coding for Employment is its collaborative approach. Big industry leaders such as Microsoft and Facebook have joined the programme as knowledge partners, providing part of the curricular and content delivered at the centres of excellence. Governments also have a key role to play. In Kenya, for example, the government has acknowledged the power of ICT for socio-economic transformation through its Vision 2030 development agenda by identifying it as one of the six key priority sectors.

Coding for Employment in Coastal Kenya

The Coding for Employment initiative is the flagship programme under the African Development Bank’s broader Jobs for Youth in Africa strategy, which aims to develop and launch Africa’s next generation of digitally enabled youth workforce. A crucial pillar of the programme is the jobs linkages pillar where the Bank and its partners will connect graduates of these centres to relevant jobs. The programme anticipates that 75% of the trainees will benefit from full time employment while 25% will become entrepreneurs.

One of the five centres has been earmarked for Kenya’s coastal region. Located at Pwani University, a public institution with a population of around 8,000 students, the facility provides a beautiful space on the 3rd floor of their modern state-of-the-art library building, serving the immediate catchment area of the six counties in the coastal region.

The County Government of Kilifi is excited by the prospect of the centre of excellence at Pwani University. It views the centre as complementary to the work done by its technical and vocational training institutions (TVETs).  The centre will provide graduates of the TVETs with digital skills that will supplement their technical skills and enable them to leverage technology for disciplines such as digital marketing. This will help to promote their technical skills and create new ventures.

The Pwani University centre of excellence is taking its first cohort of 100 beneficiaries in the first quarter of 2019, starting with basic training. We hope that the youth in Kilifi and the surrounding coastal counties will take advantage of the centre of excellence to acquire the skills that will benefit their careers and contribute constructively to the economic growth of the coastal region and the country as a whole.

ICT is key to the ability of African governments to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly Goal 8 - Decent work and economic growth – and Goal 9 - Industry, innovation and infrastructure.


Uyoyo Edosio is the Senior Education, ICT Innovation expert and youth development professional at the African Development Bank.