Africa’s Young Data Labellers- Stories From The Taskers at Africa AI
For many young people like George Njoroge, a tasker at Africa AI Labs, getting a job in a country that continues to face extremely high youth unemployment rates is not an easy feat. A reality shared by many of his colleagues; youth from Kenya’s underserved slum settlements can now benefit from training and meaningful employment opportunities as data labellers at the company, setting off a new trajectory to their realities and futures.
The Africa AI Labs trains and manages a distributed data-labelling workforce made up of Kenya’s youth from marginalized communities. Their proven training program accepts young men and women from the slums who have never touched a computer before, puts them through a 3-week training program, and provides them with dignified data labelling work.
We spoke to some of their taskers about their experience working and growing their skills at the company, and the impact this has had on their lives and those of their loved ones.
“I learnt about Africa AI from my older brother, who had been recruited for training here. I got interested as I didn’t have any other job and had been looking for an opportunity for a while”, shares George Njoroge, a Tasker at Africa AI. When George joined, he only had basic computer skills, so data labelling was a whole new world. “This place is really good. I have learnt skills in data labelling and management. This is also my first real job and for the first time I can take care of my needs.”
With this new gig George had to make some life changes to ensure optimum efficiency at work, like moving out of his parent’s house and closer to the Africa AI premises. “I moved closer so I can easily access the training. The move has also meant providing for myself but with this job, I am not only able to do that but also take care of responsibilities like my sister’s school fees.”
George’s older brother is also a beneficiary of the Africa AI Labs, and together they are working towards defining a better future for themselves and their family.
The data labelling market is expected to triple to £3.6B globally by 2023. International data labelling companies are seeking affordable and geographically diverse workforces to accomplish this work. This presents a massive opportunity for Kenya’s 7M unemployed youth, but they are hampered by a shortage of appropriate skills. By taking unemployed, informal sector youth and providing them with training and a steady flow of data labelling work, Africa AI is moving hundreds of youth to dignified, formal sector jobs.
We also spoke to Jenniffer Chari, a lady tasker at the company who was happy to share with us her experience working at Africa AI. “I learnt about Africa AI through Muyog, a community-based organization that offers youth in Marurui volunteering opportunities to grow their skills and keep busy. That was about five years ago.”
Muyog is Africa AI’s community partner that works with the youth in Marurui through initiatives such as environmental cleanups and feeding programs aimed towards empowering the youth and eradicating poverty in the area.
When Jeniffer joined Africa AI, she had tried to find work opportunities and had been unsuccessful particularly due to her health conditions. The team at Africa AI took a chance on her, and five years later, she is one of the best taskers at the company.
“Africa AI has turned my life around. I was not able to get work anywhere, but now after receiving training here I have been able to use my skills to earn a decent income. I am the firstborn, and I live in Ngomongo with my sister and her children. I help support her children with my income, and now able to support myself and not depend on my parents.”
Jeniffer acknowledges the scarcity of jobs in the country and shares her commitment to always learn and grow in her role at Africa AI. “I enjoy mastering the tools we use and being able to do my job without supervision. I like that I can now deliver without close management by our trainers. I am hoping to grow in my role as the company also grows”.
Africa AI Lab’s community-based, distributed model provides high retention, highly motivated workers without the need for capital investment in workspaces. The company plans to employ an additional 2,000-3,000 workers, by onboarding 20 distributors (community-based organizations) that each have a capacity for 50 seats serving 100-150 workers (working day and night shifts).
Africa AI Labs has grown from 34 to 150 full-time workers in the last quarter of 2022 and has created an additional 700 informal jobs.
Through the Kenya Catalytic Jobs Fund, we have partnered with Africa AI to actively obtain high-quality and high-value data labelling through managed contracts and increase better-paying work for unemployed youth in the slums.