Is the Jua Kali sector a potential haven for graduates?

By Vincent Nyoike | Tuesday, Feb 18th 2020 at 08:45
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Kenya's economy is currently performing poorly when it comes to job creation. According to FiFi Finance, a global finance portal, the informal jua kali sector has plenty to offer in Kenya. 

"Jua kali" is a Swahili word meaning "hot sun" because the artisans mostly work under the scorching sun. It is a haven for artisan jobs in Kenya and an excellent way to promote self-employment. The 2019 Economic Survey showed that Jua Kali sector created 762.1 thousand new jobs in 2018. This constituted 83.6 percent of total employment.

Moving into Jua Kali Sector

Jua Kali sector does not require a rigorous application process to get started, unlike most formal jobs. You only need to have the skill and curiosity. Most skills are acquired through on-the-job training and apprenticeship. 

Some skills in the Jua Kali sector include making metallic boxes, craft, making decoration items such as beads, designing and repairing clothes, vehicle repair, making furniture, shoe repair, making kitchen items such as stoves and pots. 

Jua Kali products have a wide market because Kenyans prefer buying Jua Kali products because they are long-lasting and easy to repair. Major markets even have grown from Jua Kali activities such as the Gikomba market, Masai Market, and Kisumu market.

The government, through the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, offers loans in order to promote this type of self-employment. Apart from loans, it also provides market support and working premises.

Opportunities for Graduates

For recent graduates, getting into the Jua Kali industry is an opportunity to start small and grow their business and working experience from there. More than 30,000 students graduate yearly, while job opportunities are few. Less than ten percent of graduates get jobs, while the rest remain jobless. 

With their high professional skills, good opportunities exist for these graduates in the Jua Kali industry. Thanks to their formal education, graduates can bring rare skills in the industry, such as accounting, entrepreneurship, marketing, management, and so on.

This can have good results for everyone. The high unemployment rates in Kisumu County already resulted in a higher influx of educated youth into the Jua Kali industry in the Kibuye Market so as to earn a living.

Jua Kali Progress in Kenya

The Jua Kali industry has grown and survived hard times since the colonial era. The Kenyan government and the private sector invested in the Jua Kali sector through the jobs' creation initiative for Kenyan youths. 

Those willing to invest in jua kali can raise capital, learn how to adjust to the hostile environment, learn lessons, and become hardened quickly. However, in the recent past, with the recognition and appreciation of the sector, many people are venturing into the sector.

There exist also initiatives such as Jua Kali Workforce. This is a platform that connects skilled workers from the informal sector with potential customers. Jua Kali Products is another new online platform. This is a startup that brings products from the informal sector online.

Loan schemes from the government and the private sector also exist. These schemes can help graduates venture into the industry, but also bring risk for them.

Nevertheless, the Jua Kali sector has had challenges. The challenges include lack of proper working environment. The industry is also facing stiff competition from local and imported factory-made products leading to reduced markets for Jua Kali products. 

Although getting started in Jua Kali does not require huge startup capital, local authorities often charge for licenses that make the cost higher. Fire outbreaks are significant problems that have been facing most Jua Kali markets and especially the Gikomba market. Due to congestion in the markets, fire spreads quickly and it is difficult for firefighters to put out the fire quickly.

Conclusion

The role of the Jua Kali sector in the economy cannot be underestimated. Apart from creating jobs, recycling iron sheets and plastic materials helps in controlling environmental pollution. Jua Kali products are exported to neighboring countries, thereby fetching foreign exchange for the economy.

When the economy improves and people have an income, their living standards improve and live and dignified life. Consequently, people become independent and the incidence of crimes reduces. At the end of it all, people acquire new skills leading to the decentralization of industries.

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