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Kenyan youths use talent to create jobs

KISII, KENYA: The unemployment rate for the youth (aged between 18-34 years) in Kenya is very high- It lies between 25-40 percent

There are not enough jobs to absorb these young people in the economy. This fact is clearly shown when you consider that this year, 2016 KCSE Candidates were over 577, 253 only about 50, 0000 of these students end up in universities. 

The balance of over 500, 000 end up either in secondary or tertiary colleges if lucky but the bulk of them end up without a college degree.

Unfortunately, majority of these youth each year are not absorbed in the job market since the government is unable to generate enough jobs for them.

However, a group of youth in Kisii County are tilting the scale through use of talents to generate jobs and earn decent living out of it.

The youth who are drawn from various universities across the country have formed a group known as the Tabaka Scouts Art Group which helps in coordinating the activities of members.

"No one joins our group without a talent. You must be able to offer something to help yourself and the group," Mr. Bernard Isanda, Director Tabaka Scouts Art Group.

The group, based in Kisii in Western Kenya, has been in existence for the past four years and has so far attracted 60 members below the age of 35. Talents in beading, basketry, designing, carving among others give one a ticket to the group.

The group is mainly involved in making sculptures, necklaces, bangles and portraits from the soapstone.

Producing these products involve intense and detailed thinking, requiring the input of each of the members. The least expensive piece goes for about Sh100 which could be simple in detail.

"We have an enterprise mind and we are focused on how we can improve our lives through making money from our talents. It is therefore important that each member is devoted to bringing out the best in him," noted Mr. Isanda.

Isanda says encouraging laziness among the youth is only detrimental to Kenya's economy and that is why they are strict on identifying and sharpening talents in each of the members.

"The effort involved, design and details put in the ware determine its price. It can take a whole year to come up with a complete and marketable product," he says.

While they are currently selling to hotels, homes, museums and art shops, the group is also exploring markets in U.S., Denmark and France. They also hope they could penetrate the Asian market.

"We get trainings from different government and non-governmental organizations on marketing, networking and honing our talents. This is helpful because none of us wants to be poor with rich resources resting with us," he said.

The group has partnered with Export promotion Council of Kenya which has helped in linking them to major exhibitions to showcase their products.

According to him, the youths must take an initiative to discover their talents and be aggressive to find a platform for utilizing them.

The 2016 World Bank report on the state of youth unemployment in Kenya ranks the country among those with the highest rates of jobless citizens between the ages of 15 and 24.

The report said that unemployment for the age group stands at 17 percent, which is almost three times higher than in the neighboring countries such as Uganda and Tanzania.

Earlier in the year, findings by the Aga Khan University also indicated a 55 percent unemployment level for the below 35 Kenyans, manifesting a worrying socio-economic status of Kenyan youths.

But Mr. Isanda believes the youth can fight unemployment if they commercialize their talents.

"I believe youth have very unique talents which they can exploit to make a living. However, we have a problem of youth waiting and expecting a miracle to happen. It is not possible unless they stand up for their abilities and capabilities to be discovered," he noted.

Professor Tom Nyamache, an economist, says the informal sector offers youth opportunities to create employment for themselves amidst changing dynamics in the job sector.

"It remains a challenge to absorb all the skilled manpower in the country. Employers are also widening the scope of skills and knowledge needed to secure employment and therefore the youth need to find alternative ways of creating jobs for themselves," he said.

It is necessary for youth to acquire technical skills currently in short supply in the country to gain leverage in search for employment, says the scholar.

His opinion rhymes with World Bank's recognition of scarcity of skills as major factor leaving many youths jobless.

International Monetary Fund has also warned of expected increase of unemployment levels in the world due to rising population pitting against a slowed economic growth.

In Kenya, for instance, some companies have been forced to retrench their workforce and others to freeze employment due to dwindled profits and gloomy business environment.

The government has set Youth Enterprise Fund and Uwezo Fund available for youths in groups to access loans and start income generating activities. This is part of the efforts made in Kenya to empower both female and male youths.