Are platform workers thriving? A deep dive into Kenya’s platform economy

Posted on 20.08.2023
Driver getting paid

In their third year¹, researchers from Qhala Limited are implementing Fairwork in Kenya as they seek to highlight the best and worst companies in the Kenyan platform economy according to how they treat their workers. Within the last three years, this industry has experienced the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as an election year that exposed the precarious situations that workers faced. Platform workers were directly affected and experienced a significant impact on their livelihoods. With the rise of food and essential goods and fuel costs, platform workers have had to work longer hours or quit the industry altogether for it to make financial sense.

The Digital Economy Blueprint² envisages a nation where every citizen has the capability to participate and thrive in the digital economy. However, as Fairwork Kenya 2022 Report observed, Kenyan platform workers are yet to realise this vision. The following were the key findings in last year’s Report:

Fair Pay: There was insufficient evidence that workers for any of the nine platforms earn the minimum wage of KES 15,121 ($122) after costs or the living wage of KES 25,400 ($204) after work-related costs.

Fair Conditions: Only Glovo and Uber out of nine platforms could evidence policies to prevent work-related risks like offering insurance, emergency SOS buttons and safety training. Glovo also provides safety gear like helmets and reflector jackets, but not always for free. Glovo got a second point for offering compensation for workers who cannot work due to sickness, accidents, or unforeseen circumstances.

Fair Contracts: Only Bolt, Uber, Glovo and Little provide clear and transparent terms and conditions subject to Kenyan law.

Fair Management: Only Glovo, Little, and SweepSouth demonstrated effective communication channels and appeals processes, for example if workers are deactivated from the platform. But no platform could evidence having an anti-discrimination policy and clarity on how they use algorithms.

Fair Representation: Only Little and SweepSouth could evidence that they ensure freedom of association and are willing to negotiate with workers. Little went one step ahead by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Organisation of Online Drivers (OOD).

The researchers from Qhala are back at it this year! In the previous years, they rated 9 platforms. In 2023, they have increased the number of platforms to 12. These are: BoltBolt FoodFarasGlovoIn DriveJumia Food, Little DeliveryLittle RideUber KenyaUber Eats, Wasili, and Yego. These platforms are being evaluated against the five principles of Fairwork, with the overall goal of this exercise being to shape a future of work made up of better and fairer jobs. With the Report Launch set for September 2023, and with 120 platform workers interviewed and evidence from the platforms trickling in, some themes have already started taking shape, namely: The high cost of living, the reality of women platform workers, and the role of collective workers’ union in the industry. The Report will also seek to answer whether indeed — as the Kenyan government hopes to be the case — platform workers are thriving in Kenya’s flourishing digital economy.

As we await the Report, we are also seeking to engage with organisations, whether current or potential users of platform labour, that would like to demonstrate their public commitment to fairer platform work.

  • Organisations like universities, schools, businesses, and charities can make a difference by committing to use fairer platforms guided by our Fairwork principles and ratings.
  • Local governments and administrations can support fairer platform work by introducing meaningful regulation that encourages minimum standards for platforms operating in their areas, or which are eligible for public funding.
  • Socially responsible investors or rating agencies can help improve the working conditions of gig workers by making sure that they, or their clients, invest only in those platforms that offer better labour standards.

There may be further ways for you to support our efforts to contribute to a fairer future of platform work, demonstrate this support to the wider public, and create meaningful change that we can explore together!

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