State can work with civil society on jobs

Thousands of young people graduate every year with high hopes of getting a job and a chance to be productive.

They step out of college eager to actively participate in nation building and start the journey to a meaningful adult life.

But shock awaits them.

Getting a job in Kenya today is a nightmare. Available jobs are jealously guarded for those in the networks of who-is-who. The few openings that go for merit are so competitive that even prospective employers find it challenging to decide who to hire and who to leave out. 

This is not all.

Several organisations continue to lay off staff because the economy cannot sustain salaries. The grants and funding that used to support small and medium entrepreneurs have since slowed down because of a toxic investment environment.

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The result is unemployment -- another name for wastage of national resources.

Support for young graduates must be an individual and collective responsibility. The government, which bears the greatest responsibility to provide for its people, should swallow its pride and start working with non-state actors to create jobs for young people.

Kazi kwa Vijana

It can borrow from the Kazi kwa Vijana Initiative that provided casual employment to thousands of youth.

This was a low level employment opportunity programme that, although it did not substantially improve the lives of the youth who took part in it, nevertheless provided some resemblance of work. 

We have to remember that work is an end in itself. To work is to be. Whether one is rich or not, a human being seeks to work.

What can the government do to create more jobs?

One of the options available is to be pragmatic and work with already established organisations that have the potential to scale up and create jobs for the youth.

Civil society groups are not as evil as the government paints them to be. Like the government, civil society contributes to nation building. It goes an extra mile to research and propose insightful policies that the government can tap into in making sound development decisions.

However, the government gets jittery with civil society whenever it provides the much-needed alternative voice. Any democratic space must have a civil society that brings out the aspirations of a people, articulates these and advocates for a better society.

Civil society runs wide ranging programmes, from agriculture, health, education, mining, sports, culture, infrastructure to civic education, advocacy and lobbying for the rights of people. It works with and under the government.

Improving lives

Civil society is, therefore, an important partner for any serious government that wants to improve the lives of its people.

On this basis, it would open up more jobs if the government works closely with civil society groups.

The State should invest financial resources in well-founded organisations to expand their programmes and employ young graduates.

In a nutshell, civil society is a huge potential employer that the government, instead of frustrating it, should provide the necessary conditions that enable further external funding.

Of particular interest are organisations that work at the county level. If supported, community and faith based organisations have the grassroots base through which they can engage more young graduates in creativity and entrepreneurship.

They have the capacity to generate hope among young people; make them believe that all is not lost.

For the Youth Fund to recorded a higher uptake of loans, the youth must be educated on how to start and manage successful businesses.

Some of the youth have been known to vanish as soon as they get a loan from the fund.

The reason is that they were not first properly trained to be entrepreneurs. With more support from the government, civil society has the capacity to train fresh graduates to become entrepreneurs. 

With more goodwill from the government, civil society can be a co-creator of jobs for thousands of graduates who come out of learning institutions to a rude reality check: that jobs are not available. 

Dr Mokua is a lecturer in media and communication studies

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