State moots plan to certify 12 million of Jua Kali artisans

Stephen Muhoma goes through his Jua Kali work at Bama Market in Nakuru on June 13, 2019. He said that the cost of material is affecting the JuaKali sector in the town since it shot up in the last few years making it difficult for them. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Local Jua Kali artisans who have not been trained in schools will now be graded and awarded certificates.

The move is aimed at boosting value for their skills and enabling them to compete in the region.

The State has also embarked on issuing certificates to more than 12 million of such Jua Kali artisans in the country. The artisans will be gauged on the products they can make.

An intensive assessment will be done before the issuance of certificates. This will ensure the awardees are good enough to be accredited.

In doing this, the self-taught Jua Kali artisans will be empowered to bid for jobs that they are currently unable to.

“This industry creates over 840,000 jobs every year. There are so many opportunities that the industry can still harness. Orders made to the industry to support housing under the affordable housing agenda are worth Sh280 million,” said Kenya National Federation of Jua Kali Association (KNFJKA) Chief Executive Richard Muteti.

“The Jua Kali industry is making windows and grills for these houses. This shows the potential of the sector.”

Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) Director-General Eusebius Mukhwana said they will evaluate artisans before awarding them certification. Dr Mukhwana noted that entry-level points would be awarded and categorisation done based on the artisans’ abilities.

“We want to ensure that there is recognition for prior learning where self-taught artisans will be awarded certificates as proof of their skills. This will enable them to thrive in a competitive regional industry.”

Education Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia said the government is willing to support the revolution of the Jua Kali industry. “Cognizant of the fact that Africa is opening up, we need to enable our youth to travel to all corners of Africa to seek jobs and be competent while at it. Certifying them will mean that they can manage to set up shop anywhere and thrive.”

The Jua Kali industry continues to struggle even as it creates massive employment.

Most of the workers still operate under unfavourable environmental conditions and barely get the real value for the products they make.

Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) boss said the industry can create about 10,000 jobs weekly if handled properly.

Currently, they employ more than 18 million Kenyans.

A closer partnership between the government and KNFJKA will also bridge the skills gap that exists between TVETs and the workplace.

Mr Muteti observed that the Jua Kali industry, which is market-driven, may fail to absorb graduates of TVETs where the curriculum-based approach to production may not rhyme with the real market needs, what with changing times and thus market requirements.

Facilities in the TVETs are also sometimes very outdated and students may end up learning on obsolete facilities. This affects their productivity in the marketplace.

Muteti noted that certification of self-trained artisans will help them recover jobs long lost to less qualified immigrants.

“When a ship docks in Mombasa, it requires all kinds of services - including plumbing works and carpentry. Kenyan artisans, lacking documents to back up their skills, are often snubbed at the expense of their Tanzanian counterparts, who have certificates to show. All our artisans have to show for their expertise is pictures of their work, which is often overlooked at the expense of qualification papers.”

A raft of measures is set to be taken by the different stakeholders under the arrangement that will see Kenyan artisans express their skills more and widen their market.

“Most of the tenders advertised are won by certified people, who lack the necessary skill,” Muteti added.

“They then subcontract our Jua Kali people, and the beautiful furniture you see around is, quite often, made by our people who lack papers. With certificates, they can now bid for the jobs and get value for their skill and talent.”

Mr Kinuthia said the government is determined to ensure that the industry thrives.

He observed that they will facilitate the process of certification, which Mukhwana’s KNQA is set to facilitate.