Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Case of Youth Unemployment

Pundits point out that Kenya’s youth unemployment may be a ticking time bomb that cannot just wait to explode. The unemployment rate currently stands at 40% in Kenya. About 70% of the unemployed people are in the 15-35 age bracket. Out of the 800,000 people in Kenya joining the labour market every year, only a mere 50,000 secure professional jobs. Unsurprisingly, this high unemployment level is to blame for escalating insecurity and crime in our country.

About 37% of Kenya’s population are youths. According to Forbes Africa’s 30 best African entrepreneurs below 30 years, seven are Kenyans. This shows that Kenyan youths are creative, talented, and have the vim to succeed. The youth should be considered assets (not during political campaigns) not liabilities (read after campaigns). Most fresh university graduates - if they were to write a report about their 8-4-4 experience would tell you that indeed, there is need for curriculum redesign so that it captures the growing needs of the ever-burgeoning labour market. But I must acknowledge that we have equally failed as a people. 

The dependency ration remains high. Those below the age of 24 and above 64 years continue to remain dependent on a small group of people. Notably and interestingly, most kids below the age of 13 work in more developed European Union (EU) countries. A third of Duth 12-year children for instance have a job. Ask our 20-year-olds to take ‘small jobs’ and you will be surprised. We are a country with a culture that praises white-collar jobs in place of blue-collar jobs. In fact, I am surprised to note that most men in suits work for men in jeans!

The Jubilee government under the guidance of Mheshimiwa Uhuru Kenyatta launched the ambitious  Uwezo Fund. During UhuRuto campaigns in early 2013, the duo promised that in the event of a first round win, they KES 6billion allocated for a rerun would be given to women and youths. True to their word, the Uwezo Fund was launched to facilitate accessibility of tenders by youths. However, the Uwezo Fund is a revolving fund that has generated immense skepticism on its capacity to solve the youth unemployment issues. This is in a similar fashion to what came of Kazi Kwa Vijana (KKV) project that was funded by World Bank.

The Jubilee government initiated a program to ensure youths access 30% of public tenders. Young people were accorded a preference to supply products to government. It was consequently effected by Legal Notice No. 14 Public Procurement Preference and Reservation (Amendment) Regulation, 2013. But how feasible is this? In the case of Coral Construction, Inc. v. San Francisc, on 2nd  August, 2010, California Supreme Court, US, gave a determination regarding a Proposition 209 long-running challenge that gives preferential treatment in the San Francisco ordinance based on gender or race in awarding city contracts. In retrospect, California voters approved the Proposition 209 in 1996. It sought to prohibit government entities against preferential treatment based on gender or race in public education, public contracting, and public employment.

Anthony Mwangi is 25 years. He discovered a technology that enables people charge their cell phones via their shoes. Again, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) listed one Evans Wadongo among thirty-five world young investors after inventing a solar-power lantern lamp for use in poor urban and rural homes. 

Furthermore, when Hon. Kinoti Gitobu, current Member of Parliament (MP) for Buuri Constituency, completed his Bachelor of Commerce degree from University of Nairobi’s Lower Kabete Campus, he declined a few six-digit figure salaries from Safaricom Ltd, PwC, and KPMG to go back to his village and teach voluntarily primary school. In a 3 years record-time, he was living his dream to become an MP after vying and toppling other experienced guys at a mere age of 25 years. Personally, I have a few friends who are happily self-employed.

Conclusively, there is no country that can develop, remain stable and prosperous without investing on the youth. The Jubilee government must wake up and taste the coffee. We cannot have any long-term development and security, if we do not create opportunities for our youth. The burgeoning youth unemployment threatens political stability, economic growth, and social cohesion.

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