By Bimbola Oyesola
As the world celebrates the International Youth Year this month, the International Labour Organization (ILO,) said the digital economy can provide job opportunities for many young refugees but ensuring decent working conditions will require new directions in thinking and action.
According to a new report by the ILO, Towards decent work for young refugees and host communities in the digital platform economy in Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, finds that digital gig work has the potential to generate income for refugees. Since they often struggle to enter local labour markets, refugees may turn to prominent digital platforms such as Jumia or Upwork in the absence of local livelihood opportunities.
But there are two major concerns relating to refugee’s work on digital platforms; decent work deficits and a lack of connectivity. Kenya, Uganda and Egypt, the three countries studied in the report, have all invested heavily in the digital economy and adopted national strategies for increasing digital access. Yet in 2020 only 22.5 per cent of the Kenyan population was using the internet, compared with 57 per cent in Egypt and 24 per cent in Uganda.
Globally, while 93 per cent of refugees are covered by at least a 2G network, they are 50 per cent less likely than the general population to have an internet-enabled phone. For refugee youth, the access is even more limited.
Other significant challenges include difficulties obtaining work permits, unreliable electricity supply and internet connection, a lack of access to suitable hardware and software or access to digital payment mechanisms.