Training for youth in urban settlements and refugee camps to connect them to online work opportunities

Past and Current Partners

WFP Innovation Accelerator (Munich), Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA)

Active Countries
Kenya, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Colombia and Zimbabwe
Thematic area(s)
Inclusive growth, gender
Organisation Name

The Problem

The 2020 UNHCR Refugee Data Finder estimated that there are around 80 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, 86% of whom are hosted in countries with struggling economies. This means that it is difficult to provide meaningful livelihoods for them. While on the other hand, statista.com, projects approximately US$ 455.2 billion gross volume of the online work economy by 2023. This means that there is an opportunity our targeted vulnerable populations to gain access to these jobs in the new world of work that would help them to improve their livelihoods, as well as contribute meaningfully to their local economies. However, the main challenge is that our target beneficiaries may not necessarily have the requisite English language, IT, and soft skills that would allow them to tap into these digital opportunities. Therefore, EMPACT was designed to address this skills gap by providing English language and IT literacy & expert-level skills, as well as soft skills that would position them to effectively access these previously untapped job opportunities. As an example, in Kenya 70% of the population falls below 35 years of age, with 80% of employment opportunities in the country coming from the informal sector, which often does not pay a livable wage, and majority of workers are the youth. Additionally, as a result of the COVID pandemic, around 50% of young people experienced a significant decline in income because of government-imposed lockdown restrictions. Therefore, WFP's mission under EMPACT (EMPowerment in ACTion) has been to connect vulnerable youth in Kenya to online work which is done by proving training, infrastructure, and linkage to online work providers.

The Solution

EMPACT aims to bridge the skills-and-opportunities gap between vulnerable populations and the digital economy. EMPACT's model does this through the delivery of a blended curriculum combining technical, English language, and online freelancing skills to targeted populations - mainly youth in urban settlements - to connect them to online work opportunities thus improving their livelihoods.

How it works?

  • Step 1: Eligible youth start the journey starts with a 2-week digital microwork training that focuses on building technical skills on digital microwork projects. The technical training is complimented by soft skills training on Communication, Time Management and Business English. By the end of the two weeks participants have the skills needed to complete digital microwork projects that pay ~USD 1.5 - 2 per hour.
  • Step 2: As the participants are working, they have the option of enrolling for the Advanced Track offering a) a self-paced digital marketing skills training, b) an instructor-led training on software development, or c) also an instructor-led training on storytelling skills. The objective of the advance track is to upskill youth with relevant skills for the freelancing market, that will increase their earnings to ~USD 5+ per hour.
  • Step 3: Once participants have established an online work portfolio, they are graduated from EMPACT. Step 4: EMPACT graduates are eligible for asset-based loans to facilitate them to purchase the required equipment and internet connectivity. In addition to the equipment and connectivity, graduates have access to a community for peer support and mentorship as they continue to engage in digital microwork and online freelancing work.
Digital X Solution Empact

Bridging the digital divide

EMPACT was designed to support and empower vulnerable persons. Firstly, EMPACT targets to ensure equitable participation by women. This is a target group that may otherwise feel intimidated in pursuing technology jobs because the sector has been mainly male dominated. Right now, women make up around 52% of program participants, which is quite encouraging. Secondly, for the youth in urban settlements and refugee camps, it is difficult for them to have access the equipment, internet connectivity, as well as digital skills to be able to successfully apply for and execute these online jobs. So, EMPACT contributes by providing access to the tools and skills that make it possible for them to take advantage of these new opportunities.

Impact and highlights

In Kenya alone, we have trained 500 youth on digital work. The average age of participants in 24 years, 52% of whom are women. Our training completion rate is 98%, with 60% of the youth successfully earning an income after completion of the training. On average, they earn US$ 1.8 per hour, per participant. In comparison, according to a 2021 report by the on the Informal Economy in Kenya by the Federation of Kenyan Employers (FKE), the monthly average wage paid by informal enterprises is US$ 30.25, which falls below the statutory minimum wage.

Plans for expansion

EMPACT is looking to expand into Somalia, Sudan, and Palestine in 2022. In the medium term we are hoping to co-create solutions to incentivize private sector companies to hire digital impact workers, as well as leverage existing KEPSA facilities across the country to run the EMPACT programme.