The youth in Kenya are defined as those between the ages of 18 to 35 years.
“Kenya is a very youthful country. The median age is estimated at 19 years, and about 80 percent of Kenya’s population is below 35 years,” according to the 2016 Kenya Youth Survey Report by the Aga Khan University survey that sought to understand the values, attitudes, concerns, and aspirations of this critical segment of the population.
August 2017, the Business Daily wrote that Kenya’s ratio of youth (aged 15-24) to the population stands at 20.3 per cent, above the world’s average of 15.8 per cent and 19.2 per cent for Africa. The millennials add up to 10.1 million out of Kenya’s population of 49.7 million, data from US-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB) shows.
The greatest challenge that faces the country is how to overcome unemployment and lack of meaningful economic engagement of our youth.
Unemployment among Kenyan youth is now estimated to stand at 17.3 per cent compared to six per cent for both Uganda and Tanzania by a 2016 World Bank report.
This is because Kenya’s ability to create new jobs has not been in tandem with the rising population and inadequate employment opportunities within the formal sector.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, in 2016, the economy generated 832.9 thousand new jobs of which 85.6 thousand were in the modern sector while 747.3 thousand jobs were in the informal sector.
Sadly, Kenya’s unemployment rate is projected to trend around 24.00 percent in 2020, according to Trading Economics global macro models.
The Kenya Youth Manifesto – Agenda ni Vijana Sasa 2017 estimates that increasing numbers of nearly 800,000 youth graduating from universities and colleges and entering the job market every year is an economy that is creating very few jobs, yet it is said to be growing.
If Kenya can creatively and boldly harness its youth then, it will have substantially addressed the question of its economic underdevelopment as the youth constitute the most energetic, active and optimistic segment who can easily be molded to embrace the dynamics of a new economic outlook, dispensation for the region.
Raphael Obonyo, the external adviser to the United Nations Habitat’s Youth Advisory Board says, “Youth are feeling the burden of unemployment. We must act! Youth in Africa today are better educated, but this has not lifted their prospects of finding jobs.”
He, however, states that “Unemployment rates call for our youths to think big in terms of being entrepreneurial for survival.”
He stresses that, Youth need genuine education and skills training and that their ambitions need to be matched with opportunities.
“Job creation needs to be about creating meaningful work. Not glorified forms of begging! Giving more education to Youth will not help them get employed. This is a myth. Give education relevant for the labour market.”
Thus, Kenya must rapidly, urgently dedicate all its resources towards creating a cadre of its young men and women in their thousands and even millions who have been trained in urban trades and professions.
These will include being masons, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, mobile phone and other electronic technicians, painters, and other trades that service the rapidly urbanizing Kenya, East Africa and the rest of Africa.
The government has pegged its five year’s agenda to ‘The Big Four’ plan of “Creating jobs, transforming lives.”
According to the 2018/19 Budget Policy Statement from the National Treasury, “The Government will focus on improving and expanding the industry-led Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges and Universities in order to equip the youth with relevant skills required to drive the industrialization agenda.”
This will involve the construction of more technical and vocational colleges in all the 290 Constituencies and equip them with appropriate training equipment.
The government also aims at developing more skilled and competitive workers through the planned “paid for” internship program that will lead to the absorption of more than 100,000 young Kenyans into the job market every year.
“In order to implement the prioritized programmes, the Sector has been allocated Ksh 428.277 billion, Ksh 446.326 billion and Ksh 459.384 billion for the financial years 2018/2019, 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 respectively,” reads part of the Budget Policy Statement.
To be in line with the National Government’s agenda, it is prudent for each of the 47 counties to dedicate a substantial proportion of its Constituency Development Funds (CDF) to modernize and equip one Diploma Technical College for the training of the various trades and professions.
This will result in churning out trained tradesmen and tradeswomen and middle cadre college professionals to service the diverse needs of the Kenyan economy in the various skills that are now experiencing shortages of technicians and professionals.
However, It would be a disservice to the youth for them to leave secondary school and have illusions that they are employable anywhere or capable of self-employment.
In this era of free primary and secondary school education it is incumbent upon every parent whose child leaves secondary school at form four or any other school level to be taken to a local polytechnic or any other technical college to be trained in an occupational skill for only then will they have been prepared to be a functional citizen of this country who can be employed or become self employed as he or she uses that trained occupational skill to service, participate in the economic activities of the country.
Further, policymakers and elected leaders must stop paying lip-service to the challenges of youth unemployment and put in place measurable blueprints that can empower the youth by imparting occupational skills to them that will enable them to be employable or be self-employed.