Yesterday (21 June, 2022), Kenya's President, Uhuru Kenyatta declined assent to the "contentious" ICT Practitioners Bill 2020 that intends to have all local ICT practitioners licensed and registered by a council.
Joe Mucheru, the Cabinet Secretary of Kenyan's Ministry of ICT Innovation and Youth Affairs had previously said that the ministry is against the Bill. Kenyatta made the decision during a ceremony where he signed ten parliamentary bills into law. He recommended that Clauses 24 and 25 of the act should be deleted. Both clauses are focused on licensing of ICT practitioners.
"The Clause prohibits an ICT practitioner pr firm from ICT practice if that person or firm has not obtained the annual practising license. The licensing requirement imposes an undue barrier to entry into an ICT sector and places an unfair burden on ICT practitioners. For the foregoing reasons, I recommend that the Bill should be amended by deleting Clause 24." he said.
The Bill was introduced in 2016 by the majority leader, Aden Duale, and supported by Kenyan MP, Godfrey Osotsi. It was aimed at ensuring the ICT practitioners in Kenya must be degree holders, with three years of relevant work experience and are willing to pay an annual license fee. The Bill also prescribed jail terms and fines for defaulters. However, it was rejected on the basis of repetitiveness.
More recently, Osotsi reintroduced the ICT Practitioners Bill in 2020, and this time it went through the first, second, and third reading. The president's assent was the last step to making the bill a law. With the latest rejection, Kenyatta expects the Parliament to conduct additional scrutiny, this implies that some of the clauses in the bill might be amended or discarded. Kenyatta's rejection is coming after many stakeholders in the Kenyan and African ICT sectors took to social media to protest against the bill.
Robert Mungai, a Kenyan who started a petition that garnered over 15,249 signatures said that "the bill is retro-progressive. The majority of Kenyan IT professionals are self-taught, with no degree or college diploma. Globally, the ICT domain operates in its own unique manner, it is not degrees, diplomas, certifications, or licenses that have seen its progressive growth, innovations, inventions, and its acceptance, it is driven by passion, determination, and the love for humanity."
Amidst the protests, other Kenyan ICT professionals like Raymond Kaniu said that "one reason these types of laws are enacted and institutions are erected is to improve accountability and transparency and enhance the ability of a nation to regulate the gray areas and exact punishment to violations."
The state of ICT professionals in Kenya
Kenya is the 4th African country with the most professional developers only behind Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt. In recent times, several global tech giants have set up their offices in Kenya such as Google's Africa Development Centre (ADC), and Microsoft. Amazon is also launching its Amazon Web Services (AWS) local zone in the country
In April, Visa opened its first African innovation studio in Nairobi aimed at co-developing digital payments and commerce solutions, and Swiss non-profit, NEAR (partnership with the local blockchain community, Sankore to launch a regional hub in Kenya dedicated to blockchain innovation, education, and talent development in Africa).
One of the biggest factors attracting big tech to Kenya is the engineering talent. The Africa Developer Ecosystem Report 2021 (pdf) revealed that 81% of venture capital funding in Africa went to the top four countries with the highest population of software developers—Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt.
Editor's Note: 27 June, 2022: This piece was edited to include President Kenyatta's recommendation to the parliament.