Innovation the way to go for Kenya
By Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
| April 1st 2017
Countries like Kenya facing massive youth unemployment and general poverty in the population for a number of reasons have an opportunity to change course thanks to fast changing technologies which are becoming available and cheaper.
I do appreciate the issue of unemployment amidst a growing population and the challenges of growing a stubborn economy owing to various reasons some out of our own omission and commission as a country.
Nonetheless, I have seen research findings and outputs that inspire a lot of hope in Kenya. All is not lost.
A study of countries which have recently seen greater improvements in the economies and quality of life offer a lot of hope. At the same time technology, much as is feared will continuously and completely change the global economic and political dynamics.
The recent pronouncement by Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communication, and Technology Joe Mucheru that the government is keen to create jobs in what is famously referred to as gig economy is quite refreshing.
The efforts that have already started with a partly government funded programme called Ajira (employment in Kiswahili).
Kenya has progressively been promoting herself as a tech hub for Africa and indeed pushing her weight in the global space.
There are also other initiatives like what is being called Studio Mashinani being pushed by the same ministry. This is the initiative by the government of taking recording studios fitted with modern high quality recording equipment to the grassroots in the counties.
There is more to be done but it is clear that unless we come up with innovative ideas we are faced with a high population which is growing quite fast and unfortunately which also many are ending jobless in adult age.
Already and unfortunately there have been a lot of retrenchments coming from private companies which are compounding the problem.
It is already a well-established norm and sensibly so, any decent economy creates more jobs in the private sector.
The private sector is the biggest employer in any decent economy. Any economy which looks up to the government to provide required employment is doomed.
This means the government has to come with innovative ways and incentives to ensure that there is expansion and increase in private enterprises. Innovative ideas like technology based are critical especially in the nature of the operating world we are in.
Many are already afraid that technology is taking jobs from people but looked differently new industries should necessarily emerge.
May I give an example of agriculture which I have been researching with a view to finding if there are opportunities for the many unemployed people in Kenya.
If you look at high potential areas in Kenya, land subdivision has made many parcels either unproductive or the returns can only make them vulnerable to poverty.
At any rate changes in weather patterns over time has made agriculture a tricky venture in countries like Kenya.
The population boom has come with its attendant challenges all over. Agriculture being the immediate result of occupation in rural areas makes land exploitation increasingly intensive. Nonetheless, studies have shown that the solution to any hope of better returns or even adequately feeding the nation relies on technology.
With an intensive deployment of technology in production and marketing the returns are bound to be higher and Kenya has no choice to this.
Already use of internet based technologies that include applications are enabling a group of farmers to link with markets in foreign countries to cut off exploitative middlemen.
With land becoming scarce intensive technology dependent farming is becoming more lucrative hence the growing use of greenhouses for vegetable farming for instance.
So a combination of innovative technologies across industries is part of the solution to the calamitous mess of unemployment and poverty many of our population find themselves finds themselves in.
It should also be taken a notch higher to form synergies and networks and in exploring markets beyond Kenya. The world is increasingly becoming competitive and innovative and we need to take our stake.
Nonetheless is also to acknowledge some of the novel ideas such as those being spearheaded by the likes of Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru and his team in the Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology.
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