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Dirty Laundry, Family Illness Inspires Kenyan To Develop A Gig App

Kenya’s gig economy stood at $19.7 billion in 2019, employing 5.13 million workers.

NAIROBI, Kenya — It took a bag of dirty laundry and a family illness for George Karimi, a 33-year-old electrical engineer based in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, to come up with an app in 2018 that has transformed the lives of gig workers.

“One day, my cleaning lady was sick, and I couldn’t find a replacement,” he told Zenger News.

“All my clothes were dirty, and so I thought about having a platform where one can hail a cleaner, electrician, plumber, e.t.c., just like one hails a cab using an Uber.”

Further inspiration for a solution came when his child fell sick and needed to see an ophthalmologist.

“It took us weeks to find one. That’s when I thought that professionals need a platform where they can have a profile for a small fee for people to reach them easily.”

Andrew Karimi, the founder of SwiftAide, says Kenyans are quick adopters of new technology and that formal employment is only available to a few. The gig economy is transforming Kenya by reducing unemployment. (Andrew Karimi)

These two incidences inspired him to come up with SwiftAide, which describes itself as “a mobile marketplace that matches professionals and businesses with local demand, allowing clients to find immediate help with everyday needs, including cleaning, moving, delivery or handyman work.”

He developed the app in 2018 with a capital of $13,810.28. So far, the platform has over 400 businesses and over 1,300 vetted service providers and professionals.

“Kenyans are quick adopters of technological opportunity if it presents them with financial gain and convenience. Just one year after launching the app, we had $1,841,36 in gross revenue. And we plan to expand to other African countries in the next five years.”

The vetting process entails verification of official identification documents and academic certificates for the skilled workforce before a person’s profile is uploaded on the app to use the platform.

“The platform is simplified, enabling subscribers to get job opportunities notifications on their cellphones without necessarily being online,” Karimi told Zenger News.

Kenya’s digital economy is propelling the country’s economic growth, but more needs to be done to prepare citizens and businesses for the economy, according to a 2019 World Bank report.

The report said that the information, communications, and technology sector has grown an average of 10.8 percent annually since 2016, becoming a significant source of economic development and job creation with spill-over effects in almost every economic sector, such as the gig sector.

Kenya’s fast-growing gig economy is creating wealth for millions of Kenyans. A 2020 Mastercard Foundation report said the size of Kenya’s gig economy stood at $19.7 billion in 2019, employing 5.13 million workers in six key sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, trade, hospitality, construction, transport, communications, community, social and personal services.

A gig worker is their first entry into the workforce after completing high school or higher education, making it a natural choice for Millennials and Generation Z, said the report.

“Research shows online access to opportunities is preferred by about 60 percent of gig workers. Less than 20 percent say they prefer to access gig work offline. More than 35 percent of workers always secure new gigs via online platforms,” said the report.

Andrew Gachara, one of the users, praises the app terming it a legit solution that is convenient and affordable. (Andrew Gachara)

However, gig workers may turn to offline or other digital channels once the first contact is made by engaging via WhatsApp messages, phone calls, or text messages.

“Income from gig work fluctuates, and a majority [38 percent] earns anywhere from Sh10,000 to Sh30,000 per month [$100 to $300],” said the report.

The report also said more freelancers are entering the gig economy sectors, such as ride-sharing, professional services, handmade goods, household services, and asset sharing.

The gig economy is currently sized at $193 billion worldwide, and it is growing at a projected annual rate of 17.4 percent. By the end of 2023, it is forecast to be worth $455 billion, said the Mastercard Foundation report.

Concurring with the report, Karimi said that formal employment is only available to a few, and therefore the gig economy is transforming Kenya by reducing unemployment.

His app offers low- to high-level gigs and seeks to connect clients to a reliable and larger pool of quality talent. At the same time, workers can simultaneously 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. It also allows skilled graduates and artisans to get hired on-demand, including electricians, plumbers, mechanics, and carpenters. So, if you are looking for highly skilled consultants in various industries ranging from health to law to construction and so on, then this is the place to be,” he told Zenger News.

John Joseph Macharia, a 27-year-old events emcee, stand-up comedian, content creator, and entrepreneur living in Nairobi’s Kahawa area in Nairobi, said SwifAide is easy to use, affordable, and customer-focused.

“The app charges a small facilitation fee depending on the service,” he told Zenger News.

John Joseph Njenga says the app is customer-focused, and it has helped me expand his business within the shortest time. (John Joseph Njenga)

“The last time to use it, I was charged $1.72 for the service. Besides linking one to the potential client, the app also suggests new clients and reaching them with ease. I have reached many clients at the comfort of my house, as the app aides me in conquering new businesses, fields and maintaining the new ones.”

Starters one gets a three-month free subscription, and after that, users choose categories that suit their budget. They 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 a profile in their application. Premium and Gold subscriptions cost $1.83 and $4.59 per month, respectively.

Andrew Gacharah, 35, a software developer from Thika town in the outskirts of Nairobi, said he was interested in the solutions SwiftAide offers.

“I have requested the services of cleaners through the app, and it did not charge me even the equivalent dollar,” he told Zenger News.

“The convenience of requesting for household services from trusted personnel from the comfort of your phone is good value. Besides, it is a good place to discover businesses in one’s area. The solution is legit, and it doesn’t hurt to support Kenyan startups.”

(Edited by Kipchumba Some and Amrita Das)