The mobile telecommunications sector is expanding at an unprecedented rate compared to other sectors and with it employing thousands of Kenyans.
According to data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) that telecommunication firms, including Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya, added 1,673 new jobs to their payroll in the year to June, reflecting a 23.8% jump, the fastest rate in five years.
“The number of employees in the mobile sub-sector has grown from 7,016 recorded in June 2018 to 8,689 recorded in June 2019. The ratio of males to females stood at 3:2,” the CA said in its latest report on the telcos’ performance.
The market regulator linked the increase in new jobs to growth and new investments in the sector that saw five firms pump Sh57.5 billion into expanding their businesses including network upgrades, up from Sh41.8 billion.
In the year to June, the five firms registered as mobile telecommunication firms, including Mobile Pay and Equity Bank’s Finserve Ltd, recorded combined revenues of Sh270.5 billion up from Sh247.3 billion.
Safaricom recorded the highest revenue share for all mobile services, whereas Finserve Ltd recorded the least revenue share in 2018.
Coming at a time when many companies have recorded a drop in profitability which has led to a string of job losses and freezing of new hiring, the mobile telecommunications sector is in a league of its own.
A record number of firms listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) have already issued profit warnings.
Official data from the Economic Survey 2019 shows that 78,400 new formal jobs were created in 2018 compared to 114,400 in 2017. This is the slowest pace of formal job growth since 2012 when the economy churned out 75,000. The data does not capture job cuts and net employment.
Looking at the big picture, however, the new jobs being churned out at telecommunication sectors might be a drop in the ocean. In the absence of M-Pesa, the sector controls 0.8% of Kenya’s annual economic output compared to the dominant sectors of the economy such as agriculture, which account for 34.2% of GDP, transport (8%), manufacturing (7.7% ) and real estate (7%).