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Youth unemployment ticking time bomb as numbers hit 1.5 million

Entrepreneur Ashifi Gogo from Sproxil East Africa speaks during the launch of the study conducted on unemployment in Kenya in Nairobi yesterday. [PHOTO:MBUGUA KIBERA/STANDARD]

Kenya: More than 1.5 million people are currently unemployed in Kenya, with over a third of them being young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Consequently, the country needs to create more than 3.9 million jobs for young people by 2020, according to a study released yesterday by SAP SE and global non-profit organisation, Endeavor. The report titled "Critical Five Percent", says Kenya's workforce is projected to grow by 3.4 million people by 2020, due primarily to young adults entering the job market.

The report says high growth entrepreneurs have the potential to be major job engines in the country. The study indicates the number of entrepreneurs is growing at 20 per cent or more per year, and represents only five per cent of Kenyan firms, but creates more than 70 per cent of the total new jobs.

"Despite recent political challenges, Kenya continues to experience strong growth, due to its broad-based economy, strategic location and above all, its youthful population. But without creating more jobs for its young people, Kenya will have challenges living up to its potential," SAP East Africa Managing Director Andrew Waititu said at a forum in Nairobi yesterday.

SAP launched findings from a study conducted on unemployment in Kenya and projected growth of the workforce in the country by 2020 at the forum. It also launched SAP Kenya's emerging entrepreneurship initiative partnership with Acumen Fund under Skills for Africa.

The initiative is aimed at equipping social entrepreneurs with skills to enable them scale up and enhance their organisations. Acumen is a non-profit global venture fund that invests in companies, leaders and ideas to change the way the world tackles poverty.

job engines

Waititu said small businesses can significantly help to reduce youth unemployment in this important market, adding that high growth entrepreneurs have have the potential to be the major job engines in the country.

"As this announcement underscores, SAP is committed to finding innovative ways to solve critical social and business issues in Africa and provide today's young people – and tomorrow's leaders -- with access to the tools they need to succeed in the digital and networked economy," he said.

Some of the companies selected for the 2015 SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship were announced during the forum.

The firms are Sproxil (East Africa) – a mobile verification service that helps protect consumers from counterfeit medicine and other health products, Sanergy (Kenya) - a sanitation firm providing clean, affordable toilets and waste management services to low-cost areas and SolarNow (Uganda) – a renewable energy firm selling and financing solar home systems for low-income communities.

Chosen for proven business model, potential to scale and outlook for job growth and social impact, CEOs of the selected firms will participate in a 100-day fellowship programme.

growth strategies

Kicking off in Silicon Valley, the fellowship has been designed to address the pains of early stage growth firms including strategy workshops, networking, leadership skills, and organisational growth strategies.

"We see tremendous potential in this selection of entrepreneurs," said Acumen's East Africa Director Duncan Onyango. "Our hope is that, by leveraging SAP's core capabilities and by utilising their fellow CEOs as resources, this cohort of entrepreneurs will not only scale their enterprises but also share best practices with others to influence the overall sector and deepen their impact."

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