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Help youth escape unemployment trap

COMMENTARY
By Joshua Oigara | April 20th 2016

Kenya is moving towards a major economic transformation that is being driven by the youth. The youth are increasingly determining the direction and pace that the economy will take in the coming years as they are the holders of the greatest ideas, the energy and commitment that is needed to drive this transformation.

But there is a big challenge ahead as more youths find themselves without jobs.

In Africa, almost 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24. The continent also has the youngest population in the world that accounts for almost 45 per cent of the total labour force. Unlike other developing regions, sub-Saharan Africa's population is becoming more youthful due to the high fertility rate underlying the demographic momentum.

In Kenya, we continue to grapple with the unemployment problem that affects the youth across the nation. Statistics indicate that approximately 800,000 young Kenyans enter the labour market every year with majority of the unemployed youth being below 35 years old.

But as much as unemployment is a challenge, it has opened opportunities for various stakeholders to roll up their sleeves and face the challenge.

Importantly, the transition to devolved system of governance has resulted in opening up of new sectors of the economy as well as increased economic activities impacting positively on employment creation.

The amendment of procurement rules in 2013 to reserve 30 per cent of public contracts for the youth, women and persons with disability, establishment of the the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities initiative to facilitate enterprises owned by the youth, women and persons with disability to participate in government procurement as well as the setting up of Uwezo Fund are some of the avenues through which youth have gained meaningful engagement.

Reviving agriculture remains Kenya's main pathway to poverty reduction. The real gains will come from increasing productivity in the Jua Kali sector, which comprises 90 per cent of all businesses in the country and contributes to 3 per cent of Kenya's Gross Domestic Product.

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As industry stakeholders, there is need for us to bring in complementary skills and competencies that enhance the productivity of the Kenyan youth.

We have realised that more focus needs to be put on investments geared towards transforming the informal sector which according to the Economic Survey 2015, created 693,000 new jobs in 2014 constituting 82.7 per cent of the total employment.

One of the key propositions that we have been advancing  is that of forging and strengthening linkages between the informal sector and the private sector in an effort to support the youth. This is hinged on the fact that the impact of a stronger private sector and economic growth on youth employment requires intelligent policies based on a sound understanding of the issues that they in finding and holding on to decent employment opportunities

The private sector not only provides the much needed funding for the various projects, it also brings business acumen and project management skills.

Big corporates are realising this gap. KCB Group prides itself as a pacesetter when it comes to investment in youth initiatives. Through our social investment arm, KCB Foundation, the bank has initiated a Sh50 billion 2Jiajiri programme expected to benefit at least 500,000 youths— creating 2.5 million direct and indirect jobs— in a period of five years, potentially opening up new possibilities for small and informal businesses to thrive.

The programme which also encompasses a business challenge for start-ups will enable young entrepreneurs to submit their business ideas for funding in order to boost their productivity. This will mainly be centered in the leather, agro-processing, furniture, metal fabrication and other trades in the informal sector by the end of 2016.

I believe that through collaborative efforts with various stakeholders, the journey towards realisation of our industrialisation dream will be achieved in a smooth manner.

It is the young people who have built some of the world's greatest innovations, riding on a wave of technological advancement. They are creating cutting-edge mobile technologies to solve problems. Young people in Kenya and on the continent at large are more upbeat about their ability to become entrepreneurs than their peers in any other region and there is need for us as private sector players and investors to pat their backs by either making access to finances easier or by offering mentorship programmes and supporting their business growth.

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