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Tame growing joblessness before it mutates into a national crisis

By The Standard | February 11th 2018

High unemployment rate in Kenya continues raising the spectre of social, political and economic challenges we have faced since Independence. The stark reality speaks for itself. According to the United Nations Human Development Index 2017, Kenya has 39.1 per cent unemployment rate ahead of Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.

Government figures, corroborated by a recent UNDP reports, show that nearly 40 per cent of the adult population in Kenya is unemployed, and 45 per cent of graduates hardly find jobs, meaning they cannot contribute productively to nation-building.

As witnessed over the years in urban areas, consequences of unemployment are grave, with hapless youth resorting to crime, aggression, political unrest and other unorthodox means to survive.

Lack of jobs and slow economic growth are thorny issues that may take years to address. However, this does not mean nothing can be done in the short-term to avert this ticking time bomb. It takes an effort to bring about change.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, in his last term, needs to spell out radical unemployment reduction targets backed by supportive policies, and rope in every stakeholder. We urge the government to pursue more economic stimulus programmes and review its other flagship empowerment initiatives, such as the Youth Fund and the National Youth Service.

Corruption should not undermine these programmes. Change of strategy is paramount. It is time the private sector, too, walked the talk and went for tangible and practical interventions. More focus should be on job-creating sectors. Putting emphasis on manufacturing, low-cost housing, infrastructure, better security, agriculture and health care will suffice.

More than ever, the country needs a robust economy that will attract foreign direct investments. In the long term, we should take advantage of technical training. Those seeking higher education should be guided to pursue courses that are in sync with the job market.

A story is often told of how Kenya and the Asian Tigers were economically at par between 1960 and 1970. It is time we asked where the rain started beating us.

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