Khalif’s Heartwarming Digital Story From The Heart Of Dadaab

by Business Watch Team

The Dadaab refugee complex, home to 218,873 refugees and asylum seekers, is not the obvious location for a story of digital entrepreneurship. Yet Khalif’s journey, from being forced to flee Somalia at age 14 to form the Dadaab Collective Freelancing Agency – a refugee-led organization providing digital training and online translation services – is a testament to the fact that entrepreneurship can be found everywhere.

A decade ago, Khalif was forced to flee Somalia as the country erupted into civil war. Leaving behind his parents and his siblings, he traveled with his aunt and five cousins to Kenya, ultimately ending up in the Hagadera camp of the Dadaab complex.

Adjusting to this new life wasn’t easy for Khalif. “It was the first time I’d ever met someone who wasn’t Somali.” He explained. “And the first time I’d ever heard a language other than Arabic.”

And as his school years came to an end, Khalif’s mind inevitably turned to what came next. However, employment opportunities are hard to come by. While the “lucky ones” would get scholarships to go to university, for the majority, it was a choice between basic labor – from collecting firewood to cleaning – and working for NGOs. Khalif wanted more. “I think I’ve always been someone who wants to challenge himself,” he points out confidently.

So, he took on a challenge. Inspired by a friend’s success as a digital freelancer, and equipped with only a smartphone, Khalif took the plunge. Using his ability to speak multiple languages, he was quickly able to find work as an interpreter and translator. What started as a one-off job, snowballed into helping clients all over the world, from Argentina to the United States of America.

Khalif was now starting to earn a sustainable living, but his demand for constant improvement didn’t let up, and when he saw the Danish Refugee Council offering courses to help improve digital skills, he jumped at the opportunity.

It was at this session that he first learned about the Ajira Digital Program – a Government of Kenya initiative driven by the Ministry of Information, Communication, & Digital Economy with the strategic partnership of the Mastercard Foundation and being implemented by different partners, including Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and Mobilis. The program seeks to empower over a million young people to access digital and digitally-enabled jobs annually in the gig and freelancing economy. He enrolled almost instantly. For Khalif, the Ajira Program was an opportunity to “become more professional” and take his career to the next level.

Having been accepted into the program, he embarked on a comprehensive six-month training program, where he was given expert sessions on linguistics, digital marketing, and graphic design, as well as taking part in a virtual mentoring program.

Reflecting on his time in the program, Khalif doesn’t shy away from what the experience meant to him. “I was just so happy,” he exclaims. “It really shaped me.”

And it’s shaped his life since. Equipped with a greater digital skillset, he has been able to find more work and afford the upkeep of a laptop, solar power bank, and personal internet network. And it’s not just Khalif who is feeling the benefits, but his friends and family too, with Khalif using his earnings to support his family both in Somalia and Kenya with school fees and to provide for his friends in Dadaab.

The impact of the Ajira Program goes beyond just financial return, however. Khalif is determined to ensure that others can benefit from his experience on the program and has since helped to set up the Dadaab Collective Freelancing Agency, where he and a group of other freelancers train young men and women in the community, providing them with the digital skills and capabilities so they too can have the opportunity to choose a different career path.

This goes to show the far-reaching impact of programs like the Ajira Digital Program, which provides young people with work opportunities in the digital economy, as well as the agency to steer their path to economic freedom.

Not only has the Ajira Digital program helped to promote greater economic opportunities for participants like Khalif, but it has catalyzed knowledge and skills transfers through initiatives such as the Dadaab Collecting Freelancing Agency, and ensures that many more young people like Khalif can carve out sustainable careers in the digital economy.

Related Content: Women, Youth, Refugees To Benefit From The New Training Program

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