Youth empowerment best bet for Kenya’s economic revolution

Global business titan Michael Bloomberg is a fan of small enterprises. Despite watching over an empire larger than the GDP of many countries, Bloomberg recognises that small and medium-sized businesses are key drivers for creating quality jobs.

The eras of American dominance were spurred by a strong private sector, where governments focused primarily on providing American businesses with the tools they needed to thrive; access to credit, an educated workforce and an open market.

In Kenya, that same groundwork has been forming, thanks to solid Government action. Credit, education, and key market reforms are showing returns for the bottom line of businesses in most fields. However, as Bloomberg would remind us, it is not the primary responsibility of the Government to provide jobs directly.

A government can at best provide an environment that leads to job creation. This is an important distinction that often gets lost in discussions when we talk about unemployment and opportunities for the youth.

Objectively, our Government is doing a sterling job, creating a positive environment. Foreign investment is constantly rising, and key economic indicators show sharp and robust improvement.

Success stories

For example, Kenya rose 19 places to the 61st position in the latest World Bank Ease of Doing Business report, the seventh most improved nation in the world.

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Our GDP is also growing at a rapid rate - tipped to break the Sh10 trillion mark this year - and we could soon see Kenya entering the top 50 global economies.

The Big Four agenda will push growth further to the seven per cent mark, as it continues to deliver projects on the back of a prolonged period of political stability.

We have our own challenges, and unlike America, there is urgent need to curb corruption in Kenya. International experts, leaders and organisations are unanimous in praising President Uhuru Kenyatta and his agents for their work on the issue. We are one of Africa’s biggest success stories, having emerged as a pivotal country in the region, and a serious player on the world stage.

However, if the Government is doing such a good job, why hasn’t the private sector seized the initiative? Youth unemployment is a growing issue, despite the steady rise in the number of jobs in the market.

We must not sit back and demand government stimulus. As youth, we must challenge ourselves to become the next generation of industry captains and entrepreneurs.

Each of us must take responsibility for our area of knowledge, from local markets to new international opportunities; in established agricultural exports and in technology startups. We are not alone in our endeavours. On top of its investments and reforms, the Government seems to be entering high level international partnerships.

Creative minded

One promising example is the Sh30 billion investment from the Mastercard Foundation to help youth access jobs and further our businesses.

Thanks to this scheme, loans to small businesses and vocational training are going to be leveling up, and so too will our businesses, if only we take these opportunities and work hard with what we are given.

At least 5 million people will directly benefit from this initiative alone, while industries such as tourism and entertainment are crying out for young and creative-minded people to transform them.

There is unlimited potential in our youth, but it can only be harnessed when we realise that potential is within each one of us, and break free from dependence on leaders.

A wise saying that America lives by is that if a nation makes up its mind about what its people are going to make of their lives, then work hard towards that goal, they will never lose.

Only 20 per cent of Kenyan graduates know what they want to do, and I believe that is why there is a gap between solid Government improvements and the youth unemployment problem.

Let us then decide to end extreme poverty, food insecurity, and make advances in cancer treatment and internet technologies.

We have a government that is working hard to enable our success, and if we work hard towards these goals then we shall win.

Mr Temba is Personal Assistant and Adviser to the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and ASALs

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Michael BloombergKenya's Economy