In the Kenyan workplace, the adoption of new technologies is on the rise due to the potential advantages they offer, particularly when it comes to saving time and resources for organizations.
The technological revolution began with automation, where machines, robots, and computers have significantly improved the efficiency of employees in various industries, enabling them to complete routine tasks with greater ease.
The latest frontier in this technological transformation is generative artificial intelligence. While it presents exciting opportunities, the impact of AI on the Kenyan workplace is a topic of both interest and concern.
Global Trends in Technology Adoption
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, over 75% of companies worldwide are actively considering the adoption of technologies like AI within the next five years. While approximately 25% of organizations anticipate potential job displacement in specific sectors due to increased AI utilization, 50% of them believe that AI will create new employment opportunities.
“The Future of Jobs Report 2023” from the World Economic Forum highlights that employers are keen to leverage the capabilities of AI by providing training to their workforce rather than replacing human workers with AI systems. Training in these emerging technologies ranks as the third-highest skills priority identified by Kenyan employers for the next five years, with 42% of them considering it their top priority.
Summit Recruitment, with over 20 years in the recruitment industry, is a prominent company in the Kenyan job market. It has delivered numerous interviews and presentations at recruitment events and conferences across Kenya and Africa regions, offering valuable insights into the evolving employment landscape, particularly in finance, accounting, and technology sectors.“Employers know that technology is advancing quickly, and they don’t want to fall behind. They see that AI can help their businesses by making things faster and more efficient. They also believe that their employees can learn how to use AI to do their jobs better. Since there’s a need for people who know how to work with AI, employers are ready to help their current staff learn these skills. Therefore, they are actively seeking workers who have a positive attitude towards and a willingness to collaborate with AI, rather than fearing its impact.” This was explained by Allan Onsomu, who is the IT Support at Summit Recruitment and Search.
Ways in which Kenyan workers are already integrating artificial intelligence into their daily tasks encompass a wide range of activities. These include simple actions such as seamlessly scheduling weekly meetings with a single click to more complex applications like AI-driven security systems that filter out spam and protect against cyber threats.
AI primarily focuses on streamlining tasks that consume employee time, especially those related to data processing and repetitive duties. This enables workers to allocate their working hours to more valuable activities and decision-making processes.
AI is also enhancing worker performance by minimizing errors, whether it involves automatically correcting spelling and grammar mistakes in reports and emails or performing intricate calculations within spreadsheets.
Moreover, AI is stepping in to support businesses when human employees are unavailable. Chatbots have become commonplace on websites, functioning as customer service representatives around the clock, responding to basic queries and addressing common concerns.
AI is now advancing beyond handling routine, process-driven tasks to undertaking more creative assignments. Programs like ChatGPT can generate text in various formats, such as emails or reports, based on minimal input. Image creators like Craiyon can transform text input into images, including logos and photographs. Audio creators can replicate human voices, converting text into speech.
“Tasks that were once considered exclusively human-centric are increasingly being executed by technology. Creative activities like brainstorming new ideas or problem-solving can now be performed by AI, which analyzes data from diverse sources to offer suggestions and innovations that employees might not have previously considered. However, employees still play a crucial role in determining which AI-generated innovations are suitable or may succeed in their specific contexts, and in implementing them within their organizations. AI complements tasks but does not entirely replace human involvement,” emphasizes Jones.
Employee Perceptions of AI
How Kenyan employees perceive AI varies. A study conducted by the University of Nairobi and KPMG Kenya reveals that more than a third (37%) of Kenyan workers are already utilizing AI in their professional roles. An additional 24% believe that their organizations are incorporating AI into their operations. Furthermore, 40% of Kenyan workers express their willingness to trust and embrace AI in their work, with 46% comfortable with the idea of AI assuming a more prominent role in their workplace. They cite improved efficiency, cost savings, and the innovation AI enables as key positive aspects of AI integration.
However, apprehensions about AI are not entirely absent. Concerns range from cybersecurity risks and system failures to potential job displacement when tasks become automated and the possibility of misuse or harmful manipulation of AI technology. Nevertheless, almost half (44%) of Kenyan workers believe that the benefits of AI outweigh these risks.
Generational Differences in AI Acceptance
Notably, younger generations are more open to embracing AI technology. Approximately 41% of Gen Z and Millennials in Kenya already trust AI, while 40% readily accept AI systems. In contrast, 37% of Gen X and 31% of Baby Boomers trust AI, with 33% and 22%, respectively, accepting AI systems.
“The study indicates that Kenyan workers are somewhat more cautious about AI compared to their global counterparts, as 55% of workers worldwide are comfortable using AI at work. However, this comfort is conditional and largely dependent on the nature of the tasks AI is expected to handle. Kenyan workers are more willing to accept AI when it comes to automating tedious or repetitive tasks,” observes Jones.
AI’s impact on the Kenyan employment market is significant, especially in a service-oriented economy where major industries include healthcare and social assistance, retail, construction, professional services, and education and training.
Summit highlights the evolution of the Kenyan workforce, emphasizing how new employment opportunities are emerging in innovative ways. Even in traditionally labor-intensive sectors like agriculture, roles for software developers, data scientists, and drone operators are being created to complement the work of farmers and enhance their decision-making processes.
The recruitment industry serves as a noteworthy case study in Kenya, as it has been at the forefront of AI implementation and acceptance. AI has proven to be a valuable tool for candidate screening, with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) efficiently sifting through thousands of job applications and selecting candidates based on predetermined criteria. This saves recruiters considerable time, allowing them to focus on researching and interviewing suitable candidates. ATS has also contributed to mitigating unconscious biases, including those related to age, gender, and race, ultimately benefiting the community and ensuring the selection of top talent.
Additionally, AI enables recruiters to identify potential candidates passively, based on their LinkedIn profiles or industry information, thereby broadening the talent pool. Recruiters can invest more time in networking, liaising with employers to understand their requirements, and collaborating with candidates to enhance their employability. AI continues to transform the Kenyan workplace for the better, enhancing employee productivity and efficiency with each passing day. Organizations that embrace AI are well-positioned to reap the rewards of this technology, fostering growth and innovation in the process.