Questions as Ruto says Google, Amazon, Intel to hire 300,000 Kenyans while tech giants lay off thousands

Questions as Ruto says Google, Amazon, Intel to hire 300,000 Kenyans while tech giants lay off thousands

President William Ruto shakes hands with Google’s Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet Ruth Porat on September 15, 2023. | PHOTO: PCS

In the middle of massive layoffs that have swept across the global tech ecosystem in recent months, President William Ruto says he has special job arrangements for Kenyans with Silicon Valley tech giants in the United States.

This is upon returning from his US trip a fortnight ago, where he met Big Tech maestros from corporations like Microsoft, Intel, Google and Apple with the aim of nurturing Kenya’s start-up sector.

He was flanked by US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman, herself a Silicon Valley veteran having formerly served as CEO of Hewlett Packard (HP) and streaming platform Quib, as well as high-profile stints at Hasbro and StrideRite Corporation. 

During the visit, Dr Ruto met Apple CEO Tim Cook, Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger Google’s Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet Ruth Porat, Microsoft COO Brad Smith and other executives from Visa other companies.

A communiqué from State House on September 16 says the president also invited these companies to set up manufacturing operations and regional offices in Kenya, to which Mr Cook specifically said Apple will consider setting up a developer’s academy in Kenya.

The others, per the statement, termed Kenya as “a good investment destination” and “an appealing destination for American venture capital” which “remains largely unexplored.”

But questions began Friday when during his UDA party’s National Governing Council meeting at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, Ruto said he had struck an agreement with Amazon, Intel and Google that will see these corporations give Kenyans thousands of what he described as “digital” jobs.

“I was in America and we agreed with Amazon, Intel and Google that they will provide digital jobs for Kenyan youth,” he said without going into further details.

Then on Sunday, during a church service in Nairobi’s Lang’ata area, the president repeated the announcement, but this time said Apple instead of Amazon.

“I visited Google, Intel and Apple. All these companies are looking for online workers,” said Ruto.

Without getting into specifics of which corporation promised to employ what number of workers, the president added; “They want us to give them 100,000, 200,000 and 300,000 workers out of the Kenyan youth.”

Ruto’s comments have puzzled many who are up-to-date with the macroeconomic challenges the big tech and start-up ecosystems have been facing since last year across the world which has led to hundreds of thousands of layoffs.


If these companies want to hire 300,000 Kenyans? What will they be doing exactly and why is Kenya so special that they are willing to balloon their workforce with just Kenyans?

Google ostensibly employs around 170,000 people worldwide currently, while Intel has around 130,000 employees and Apple around 160,000. Amazon on the other hand has around 1.5 million staff.

Is Kenya building factories where Apple can come and build their hardware here and shift from China? Is Amazon about to venture into Kenya and build its fulfilment centres in this amazing East African country?

Are we getting into global chip wars and we are manufacturing semiconductors that will see us go toe to toe with giants like China and the US?

For Kenya to attract Intel, one of the world's largest semiconductor chip manufacturers, we must be knee-deep into the chip industry.

The answer to these questions is one, "No", which leaves us wondering what these 300,000 Kenyans will be doing when they are ultimately, according to President Ruto, hired by these tech giants.

President Ruto’s remarks beg the question, what are these “digital jobs” in the first place, seeing as these companies have slashed their workforce across top executives and various departments and dropped engagements with outsourced contractors?


The other pressing issue in all of this is that these same companies touted to be about to hire 300,000 Kenyans have been on a firing spree this year.

Data from US-based layoffs tracking website shows that 224,503 tech workers have lost their jobs in 2023 alone so far.

Microsoft in January announced a round of layoffs that sent home 10,000 of its 221,000 workers. Some of these were in the Africa Development Centre opened in Nairobi in March last year.

Twitter has been on a layoff spree since being bought by Elon Musk last year, sending home about half of its 7,500 employees.

In March, Meta cut 10,000 jobs and withdrew around 5,000 open roles it had yet to fill, with its co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcing the company would also cancel “lower priority projects.”

This was in addition to the 11,000 jobs it had slashed in November last year.

The social networking company would in May send home 6,000 more people, bringing to about 21,000 people it had laid off since November 2022.

Amazon sent home 27,000 job cuts or 8 per cent of its 1.5 million employees worldwide.

In the meantime, Google parent Alphabet cut 6 per cent of its global workforce, impacting 12,000 people, some of whom were based in the company’s product development centre in Nairobi.

Apple on its part eliminated “a small number of roles” within its corporate retail teams, per a Bloomberg report in April, while LinkedIn cut 716 jobs, about 3.6 per cent of its total employees.

Another question from Ruto’s announcement would be, when is all this set to happen?

While he did not state when Kenya is expected to begin the engagements with these tech giants, none has yet publicly set the record on being able again to employ hundreds of staff after the upheaval.

“We must be deliberate and intentional about creating jobs for the young people of our nation,” Ruto told a clapping audience at Bomas on Friday, and it remains to be seen how the plan goes alongside the hundreds of thousands of jobs abroad his government has promised Kenyans.


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