Jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago

Kangai Mwiti, the make-up artist and the face behind Bellesa Africa . She started her YouTube channel Kangai Mwiti in May 2012 and by Friday, it had more than 96,300 subscribers, most of whom are there to learn how to apply makeup. PHOTO| COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Communicating through messages on social media might seem like a time-wasting activity, but one Nairobi resident has learnt how to make money out of it.
  • Mr Seth Kariuki, 36, sells land, cars, branding services among other items by sending direct messages to Facebook and Twitter users.
  • For the last three years, Mr Kariuki has been a regular fixture in inboxes of some users as he looks for buyers.

Nothing is permanent except change, so goes the saying. And change has been the constant in the careers arena over the years, with some jobs emerging every day while others fade into extinction.

As the latest technological innovations spread in Kenya, careers pegged on the Internet are gaining prominence while those like being a switchboard operator, typist and video store clerks head for the back seat.

Tasks that previously seemed like a pastime are now turning into full-time careers, with some organisations creating spaces for positions like social media marketers, online customer care agents and YouTubers among others.

Dr Mike Iravo, a human resource lecturer at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, advises Kenyan employers to develop strategies to adapt to the change while minding the welfare of employees whose roles become redundant.

“You can’t just start (phasing them out) all of a sudden. Let us go slowly as we phase them out. As we retire them, we then insist on people who should have these technology skills,” he told Lifestyle.

Dr Iravo said that the new posts in the workplace are inevitable, especially with the onset of social media.

“The way the world is going, we need to embrace the social media, although this can be preserved within time so that everybody comes on board,” he said.


On the advantages of social media to businesses, Dr Iravo said: “I see a lot of strategies being created for organisations through the employees. I see a lot of information being delivered on time. I see the exchange of skills between employees and others being enhanced.”

According to Mr Justin Anyona, an agency relationship manager at Google Kenya, the expanding digital space is guaranteed to create more jobs with time.

One of the spaces is YouTube, a platform for sharing videos.

“It’s phenomenal. Look at youngsters of 13 to 18; the sort of content they watch. YouTube has really taken off. And there are all these sorts of YouTube stars, people who only log on to YouTube and they become huge. Some are even bigger than TV stars,” said Mr Anyona.

“It’s quite big and it’s just about doing interesting content, getting subscribers, getting people to view your videos, and then now you work with Google and YouTube to monetise the content.”

Another platform for making money, he said, is by helping websites rank higher on search results from search engines.

“Some agencies … make for you websites and then they also offer an extra service of making sure that it’s properly optimised for search engines,” he said.

Lifestyle looks into some of the jobs that have emerged in Kenya due to technological advancement, as told through youths who took a leap of faith and are now making money out of it.


Communicating through messages on social media might seem like a time-wasting activity, but one Nairobi resident has learnt how to make money out of it.

Mr Seth Kariuki, 36, sells land, cars, branding services among other items by sending direct messages to Facebook and Twitter users.

For the last three years, Mr Kariuki has been a regular fixture in inboxes of some users as he looks for buyers. He markets products belonging to other proprietors and gets a commission per sale.

When he spoke to Lifestyle, he was looking for land for an energy company that wanted prime plots countrywide. He was also chasing a branding deal with a coffee shop.

“You have to look for clients online through their Facebook pages, and their links. I also network a lot with people,” says the former banker. “I inbox, I ask for the numbers of a person I can talk to.”

He runs at least four Facebook accounts through which he reaches potential buyers. To achieve that, he has adopted software that sends daily messages to Facebook users. 

While social media marketing takes many perspectives, Mr Kariuki says his model works for him because it is cost-effective.

“It is easy. You can work from anywhere: from office, from the house, provided you have Internet,” says the father of one.

He says he makes enough to sustain his family, noting that if one works hard, one will not regret.

“What you need to do is know the people you work with and to know what you’re selling,” he says.

Going through one of his Facebook accounts, one realises that some of the posts are jokes that don’t relate to business in any way.

“You have to be alive. You don’t have to be serious every time. There is need for humour,” he says.


Video blogging, or vlogging in short, is what Mr Wilson Muirania, popularly known as Jaymo Ule Msee, identifies as his launch pad to success.

You might have seen him on KCB Bank advertisements for their new app or on the Jaymo Ule Msee show on TV.

Before the fame, Mr Muirania was a bank relationship officer after graduating with a degree in Political Science and Economics from the University of Nairobi in 2008. But that didn’t excite him.

“When I told my parents and friends that I had quit, they were puzzled and thought it was the wrong move, but I knew what I wanted,” he says.

In theory, anyone with a camera, an Internet connection and something to say can create a video blog. But for him, vlogging is a career.

His YouTube page has over two million views and his Facebook page had 172,244 followers by Friday.

It is through these platforms that he broadcasts short videos that tell stories about every day life in a hilarious way.

“Social media provides a space for everyone to experiment or do things that we feared doing before,” he says.

“For me, using social media to market my talent was, and is, my strategy.”

Other famous vloggers include Uganda’s Anne Kansiime who also ended up having a show on TV after her satirical videos impressed media houses.

Although vlogging is making its baby steps in Kenya, in Western countries it has become a full-time career for some.

According to Forbes, Swedish comedian Felix Kjellberg alias PewDiePie, who made a name from uploading YouTube videos of himself playing video games, earned $7.4 million (Sh740 million) last year from product endorsements.


If you thought the people who set trends on Twitter and have tens of thousands of followers are idlers, better think again because some youths have flown to riches through that medium.

One of those is Mr Rama Oluoch, known as Ramzzy on Twitter, currently working as a creative digital strategist at a Nairobi-based marketing firm — his third employer since 2011.

With more than 48,600 “followers” on Twitter, Mr Oluoch has been involved in online campaigns for a number of products including beer brands, telecommunication companies and insurance firms.

“When someone is launching a product or when there is somebody who already has a product and they’re looking for a professional, that’s when I get to talk to people,” he says.

Mr Oluoch considers himself a creative person, an attribute he says has helped him prosper, in addition to his training as a graphic designer.

“It’s a rewarding job. I say if you chase happiness, money will come. I chase happiness,” he says.

The setback is that many people don’t still understand what he does.

“You look unemployed most of the time,” he says, laughing. “You just stay online and you look like a ‘hustler’. Many don’t understand because it is a very young industry.”

To succeed in the field, he says, one needs to be interesting and needs to have a considerable following on social media.

“When you can grow yourself as a person online, it’s much easier for you to grow a brand because you understand how to communicate with people,” he says.


Do you know why one website appears before another whenever you key in some words on a search engine?

A lot of things go into determining which site gets listed first, and you can earn a pretty penny advising website owners on how to make their portals rank higher than their competitors.

The method of increasing a website’s reputation on search engines is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and it has provided employment opportunities in the last few years.

Mr Ken Kariuki, who runs SEO Consulting Kenya, says he can never return to formal employment since he quit his job at a Nairobi-based technology company seven years ago.

When a client hires his company, they analyse the components of the customer’s website to check if it meets Google’s requirements. If met, the website is likely to be ranked higher.

“To put it in layman’s terms, Google has a sort of a checklist that they use ... They have got a running algorithm which they keep changing every other day,” he says.

Throughout the years he has been engaging in SEO, he has served at least 60 clients. Every contract lasts a minimum of three months.

Mr Kariuki says he was the one who created the Administration Police website and its social media outlets.

“I was with them for about three years. Now they’re good enough to run it by themselves,” he says.

To those aspiring to join his field, he says: “First, get the necessary skills and experience ... SEO is about experience. It’s not as easy as people say.”

However, according to Mr Anyona, the Google relationship manager, some practitioners in the SEO field trick customers that they can improve the rank of their websites but flout Google rules in the process.

“We’re very open about what goes into [ranking search results] … But there are also those sort of black-hat SEO experts … who try all these dirty tactics of trying to fool Google into ranking the page higher,” Mr Anyona says.


How about clicking that button to hire a personal assistant who will sort all your stuff for the day? If you think that is impossible, Mr Duncan Kipng’eno will tell you it is possible.

He is the founder of Virtual Assistant Kenya, a company that helps people in need of an extra hand in creating a website, preparing account statements, graphic designing, personal assistant services, running errands among others.

“You can hire a virtual assistant as your personal assistant. If you’re very busy as a manager, you can say, ‘Let me hire a PA who I can use to help me arrange for meetings, booking appointments and doing some shopping’,” he says.

He started his company in April 2013 and since then he has offered virtual assistance to a number of clients worldwide. He currently has 11 people working under him and who specialise in various fields to meet clients’ diverse needs.

“We have work from within the country and from other parts of the world — like we’ve had clients from US, UK, China,” he says.

Mr Kipng’eno predicts that the demand for virtual assistants in Kenya will keep rising, given the cost-effectiveness the model offers small businesses.

“We give small and medium-sized enterprises an opportunity to get the skills and to get services that could have otherwise been provided by employees at an affordable price and in an efficient way,” he says.

Clients are charged differently for the services they seek from Mr Kipng’eno’s firm.

“We charge Sh300 to Sh500 per hour depending on the task,” he says.


Blogging was non-existent in Kenya as recently as 10 years ago.

But it has turned out to be one of the most sought-after careers with political parties, corporates and even the government turning to bloggers whenever they want to get a message out.

In one of her posts where she replies a follower on what someone needs to do to become a fashion blogger, Silvia Njoki urges commitment.

“Fashion blogging can be a full-time job or a hobby. So, depending on your vision, make sure you are committed to spend a lot of time and effort to produce the best possible content for your blog because passion should be your driving force,” she says.

One of the ways bloggers make money is by allowing Google to place advertisements on their sites. They get paid when readers click on the ads.

To become successful, Ms Njoki says you have to research and be knowledgeable so that people have a reason to visit your blog.

Some of Kenya’s renowned bloggers include Sharon Mundia who runs This is Ess, Magunga Williams who runs This is Magunga and Sylvia Jemutai with Dine With Jemutai.


Until you understand the art of running a channel on popular video website YouTube, you may not consider “YouTuber” as one of the emerging professions.

But when make-up artist Kangai Mwiti explains how it has enabled her go places and reap profits, it starts to make sense.

She started her YouTube channel Kangai Mwiti in May 2012 and by Friday, it had more than 96,300 subscribers, most of whom are there to learn how to apply makeup.

“It took me eight months to get to 100 subscribers,” recalls Ms Mwiti, a graduate of international business and marketing from the United States International University.

Ms Mwiti won hearts gradually, giving her channel the traction that opened doors for income when she became a brand.

“It has expanded the work that I do to include so many other things apart from makeup,” she says.

Now she has integrated the channel with social media platforms, which ensures a steady supply of clients in need of makeup.

“Eighty per cent of my clients come from what they have seen online first then the others possibly come from referrals,” she says.

She has lost count of the number of clients she has had ever since she gained fame online.

“I have so many brides that I work with, I have makeover clients, I have corporates … For example, from July to August I’ve worked with an average of three to four weddings every week,” she says.

For aspiring YouTubers, she urges persistence, consistency and creativity.


Consumers now have the social media as the go-to place whenever they have complaints against sellers, and corporates are now employing people to enable them interact with clients.

Ms Njeri Igane, for instance, works as an online support champion with Safaricom.

When she reports for work in her 4 pm to 1 am shift, she checks which skill set she has been assigned for the day — mostly Facebook or Twitter — then responds to questions from subscribers. Sometimes she calls the customers.

The number of queries they receive on online platforms, she says, is almost similar to those from direct callers.

“On the weekends, it tends to die down because a lot of people who engage us on social media are the youths … so we have even less numbers of agents working over the weekend compared to the rest of the week,” she says.


One-and-a-half decades after the cell phone came to Kenya, 85 per cent of the population now owns phones, according to the Communications Authority. 

More recently, smartphones have gained prominence, creating an avenue for mobile application developers to create Kenyan-made apps, some of which have ended up being viable businesses.

Entertainment applications have in particular become a hit, with developers creating apps like Tough Jungle, a gaming application created by Gerald Kibugi about a Maasai warrior who faces challenges in a forest.

“At the time I came up with Tough Jungle, I realised that there have been no games based on the Kenyan setting apart from Ma3 Racer,” he says.

Ma3 Racer, an app about driving a matatu on the streets of Nairobi, is perhaps the most successful — with over two million downloads.

The phenomenal growth of this industry is the reason why Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s first stop in his recent Kenya visit was at iHub along Ngong Road, an incubation centre where app developers are guided to make money from their creations.


Also known as addictive manufacturing, 3D printing enables one to design and synthesise a three-dimensional object through a computer.

Tangible objects of any shape or geometry can be produced by using Computer Aided Design software and although the adoption of this technology has been slow in Kenya, a number of 3D sculptors have sprung up.

In 2013, Roy Ombati and Harris Nyali from the University of Nairobi, took part in the Innovation Africa competition on 3D printing through their project “Happy Feet” that aimed to assist people whose feet have been infested by jiggers with customized 3D printed shoes.

It’s not just shoes, 3D printing can be applied in architecture, construction, industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, medicine, biotechnology, fashion, education, geographic information systems and food industries.