25 Nov 2020

The Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and BUSINESSAfrica held a successful Virtual Employers' Annual Conference on 18th - 20th November 2020. This Conference focussed exclusively on matters affecting employers workplace and enterprises. It built on the Employers Summit held in 2016 and the Africa Employers Conference held in 2019.

This year’s conference saw 18 speakers and more than 170 Industry captains, government officials, representatives of the International community, partners in Africa, trade unions and industry captains attended the virtual event.

The conference created the much-needed platform for all stakeholders to deliberate on the emerging Volatile, Unpredictable, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) World of Work. Under the theme, “Building Resilient Enterprises, Creating Wealth and Jobs”. The conference focused on three thematic areas affecting enterprises in Kenya and Africa in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. The topics included: Impact of Technology on Business Models and the Workplace; Human Capital Trends and Skills of the Future; and Regulatory Frameworks for the changing Business Environment.

The Conference was timely and significant in that it came at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented disruptions for organizations and societies at large thus radically changing the macroeconomic outlook for 2020 and beyond. The pandemic has brought to the fore the necessity for many companies to assess how well they are prepared to manage crisis and ensure business continuity. The delegates got the to reflect on what has been happening, to share experiences; perspectives and responses to those challenges; and at the same time to give thought to setting the directions for the future.

The Conference kicked off on a high momentum from industry captains guided by the day’s theme “Building Resilient Enterprises, Creating Wealth and Jobs”. Hon. Simon Chelugui, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, graced the conference as the chief guest. The Federation was also privileged to host Mr. Roberto Swarez, Secretary General, International Organization of Employers, Dr. Habil Olaka, FKE National President and Dr. Francis Atwoli, Secretary General of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU-K) was represented by Mr. Adams Barasa of COTU.

In his opening remarks, the Cabinet Secretary Mr. Simon Chelugui reminded Employers that they are the key drivers of job creation in Kenya “Every person that I meet believes I have Jobs to give, simply because I am the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Labour, I am therefore very happy to be addressing you, because you have all my jobs, you are the ones who create jobs, my work and that of the government at large is to create enabling environment so that you can make more money and create more jobs.”

The CS alluded to the fact that his ministry recognizes the role played by FKE as a major partner in of the Tripartite arrangement. “I have foreseen the establishment of a Tripartite Rapid Response Team in April 2020 that came up with initiatives to safeguard the interest of workers and employers in the country. One of the initiatives implemented was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the social partners which laid emphasis on social dialogue and tripartite consultation, voluntary negotiation, review and variation of employment contracts, workplace safety and health, provision of PPEs and data collection for impact assessment” said the CS.

Mr. Roberto Swarez, Secretary General, International Organization of Employers appreciated the fact that digital economy is becoming the order of business in the modern work environment. “According to our research, many countries globally have improved in digital interaction with customers from 36% in 2019 to 58% in 2020, some have higher interaction up to 70%”.

He further emphasized on the need for stakeholders to work together for better work environments “We need to work together to build a better future, to protect workers and small businesses, to promote gender equality and create opportunities for youth; we need to share development gains more equitably, ensure that all people have an opportunity to fulfil their potential and that economies thrive” Prof. Vincent Ogutu, Vice Chancellor, Strathmore University was the Expert presenter of the day’s topic “Impact of Technology on Business Models and the Workplace”. He explored the theme with much-needed professionalism.

The panelist of the day included: Mr. Anand Mohan Nagothu, the Chief Executive Officer of Digital Techno Brain and Ms. Emmelie Odberg Rosengren, Assistant Director Department for Skills and Innovation, NHO. Their expatriate presence enriched the deliberations that focused on; acceleration of job creation in the digital space, enriching digital skills in the labour sector and maximizing digital space for better work environments.

The second day of the conference was guided by the topic; “Human Capital Trends and the skills of the Future,” and featured two Expert presentations from Prof. Njeru Eno, UON who was representing Professor Stephen Kiama, Vice Chancellor, The University of Nairobi and Ms. Debbies Hollis, Senior Manager, Human Capital-Delloitte, East Africa. The panel discussion session further brought together to fore the best practices and latest developments on the changing megatrends in the World of Work, human capital development besides the future of work. The speakers included: Mr. Wellington Chibebe, ILO Country Director for Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, Prof Mthunzi Mdwaba, Employers global spokesperson and John Mwendwa, HR Director, Cocacola Bevarages Africa-Kenya.

Alongside the discussions, Kenya Business and Disability Network (KBDN), a new initiative to showcase business leadership on the inclusion of people with disabilities was also launched. The last day of the conference saw Mrs. Rosa Nduati -Mutero, Partner Anjawalla &Khanna deliver an elaborate expert presentation on “Regulatory Framework for the changing Business Environment”. The panellists included Ms. Rita Kavashe, Chief Executive officer Isuzu East Africa, Mr. Mike Macharia, Chie Executive Officer, Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Ms. Lindiwe Sephomolo who is the Executive Director, Association of Lesotho Employers and Business.

At the end of the conference there were satisfactory recommendations proposed Including: Review regulatory framework to support the changing business environment and work of the future including remote working arrangements, working from home, virtual work, and other emerging types work and ways of working, Strengthen reskilling (both upskilling – advancing workers' current skills, and retraining, the provision of new skills to enable a change in role) of employees.

This should include: enterprises conducting strategic workforce planning to determine the skills gap; improving training options for employees; and fostering a culture of lifelong learning and Establishing a tripartite technical level working committee to support operations of the National Labour Board This recommendation if implemented will go a long way in making individual enterprises more resilient, adaptive, and competitive, so as to navigate through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.