Sama no longer offers content moderation services to its clients. However, it has since picked up computer vision and AI work and looks forward to hiring more locals amid a wrongful termination case with Meta moderators.

Kenya’s trade cabinet secretary (CS) Moses Kuria, has revealed that Sama will hire 2,100 Kenyans in the next two weeks. The new hires will work in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, focusing on computer vision artificial intelligence (AI). They will work on various projects, including labeling images and videos for machine learning algorithms. 

According to Kuria, this development has been motivated by Kenya’s plan to create 1 million BPO jobs, a goal Sama has pursued since entering the Kenyan market in 2015. The first batch of 600 employees has already started working, while an additional 1,500 will be hired in the following weeks. This will increase Sama’s headcount from 3,400 to 5,500, with a leadership team that is entirely Kenyan.

In a media meeting last Friday, Evelyn Njiiri, legal counsel at Sama, hinted at the Kenya government’s plan to work with the company, citing the need for public-private partnerships. “We also need to partner with the government, maybe in the universities, to teach computer vision AI if such an opportunity to do so. And there are so many other companies which are teaching AI from the basics. We are at the very bottom of the supply, but the whole supply chain will need to be moved after the end. We also need to be more proactive as opposed to being reactive,” Njiiri said.

“The government is keen to turn Kenya into a digital economy by creating a conducive operating environment for the private sector. We congratulate Sama for their commitment to nurturing Kenyan youths on the AI Value chain,” State Department of ICT and the Digital Economy principal secretary (PS) John Kipchumba Tanui said.

Sama is now focusing on computer vision AI work after discontinuing content moderation. According to Sama’s legal representative, who spoke to the media last week at Sama’s Nairobi offices, content moderation accounted for only 3% of the company’s work. Sama had also fired 184 content moderators, who have since sued the company for unfair dismissal. The case, last heard in court at the beginning of June 2023, is ongoing. It did find Meta responsible since the moderators performed Meta’s work. However, the judge presiding over the case mentioned that Sama was just an agent. At the same time, Sama argued otherwise, saying that Meta was its client and did not have the legal authority to act on Meta’s behalf, adding that it did not have work for the dismissed moderators.

“We exited content moderation to focus on computer vision. When you know what you are good at, you would want to focus on that,” Sama said. The company added that it left that line of business as a strategic business decision, not to mitigate the fallout from the ongoing case. Sama primarily employs young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The male and female headcount is also nearly evenly split, reflecting the practices of other companies like Safaricom. This topic has garnered widespread attention on the web, with local political and youth leader Brain Mutiga emphasising the importance of providing such opportunities to the underprivileged. “It will be good if sons and daughters of the poor get the priority. We cannot always have children of our leaders who have unlimited opportunities still benefiting from such offers in the name of ‘Kenyan youth,’” Mutiga said on X.

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