“If you look at life in Nairobi, things are not certain. You might have a job today, but tomorrow you might be unemployed. It’s only wise to have something you can count on in all seasons,” said 26-year-old Emmanuel Mureithi, a youth working at a car wash in Kariobangi North, Nairobi.
After many years of trying to find a job, Emmanuel and other youths formed Eagles Youth Group to raise capital for starting a car wash business, a venture that most felt it is only meant for the uneducated.
Speak to anyone on the streets of Nairobi, and they will tell you they know of at least one skilled youth seeking employment but cannot get decent work.
Such is life in Kenya’s capital city.
Due to demographic shifts that have created a youth bulge, today, one-third of the country’s population is between 18 and 34 years old – far more young people than there are jobs to support them, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The situation grows worse every year. According to the World Bank’s Kenya Economic Update, while 800,000 youth reach working age annually, only 50,000 new formal modern-wage jobs are created.
Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicate the country will add 11.7 million to the job market over 15 years from 2020. According to KNBS data, more than 800,000 young Kenyans enter the labour market annually from universities and other tertiary institutions.
The Kenya Population and Housing Census Report (2019) indicates that youth unemployment in the country stands at 38.9 per cent, with about 5.3 million youth unable to secure decent jobs.
Kenya Unemployment Rate
Today, Nairobi’s youth are flooding into the informal sector. For the likes of Emmanuel, the informal sector is a godsend – its lack of regulation and taxes enables young entrepreneurs to attain a degree of prosperity outside the formal economy.
Indeed, businesses like his, with a staff of employees and ambitious expansion plans, could uplift the country, creating jobs that the formal realm has failed to generate.
Why a Car wash?
“During the initial stages of Eagles Youth Group, we needed more capital to purchase all the equipment required for a car wash business. But we had a dream, so we were determined to use what we had to get where we wanted to be.”
“After a few years into the business, we saw an opportunity and got a grant worth 100,000 shillings in car washing equipment from Safaricom Foundation. That was the beginning of our success story! (Seven months ago),” Emmanuel says.
Located in kariobangi North, the Eagles Youth Group car wash business is one of a kind. Emmanuel says they wanted to provide a unique service that would stand out in a business venture many people around Nairobi already offer. A high-pressure washing machine from the Foundation made it best!
They wanted something that could help keep the Kariobangi North community better and safe by reducing the social evils such as crime, drug abuse, and prostitution that have been blamed on the lack of jobs.
The business now employs other youths not part of the team, whether educated or uneducated.
Emmanuel feels like today’s youth are not embracing these opportunities because of their education levels, yet the same education system does not equip them with the necessary skills.
“A significant flaw in our education system is that it does not train learners to embrace innovation, experimentation, and entrepreneurial acumen.
The focus should not only be on theoretical knowledge but also on equipping learners with practical skills. This will enhance the youth’s personal and career development, ensuring they are employable and skilled to create jobs for themselves,” He says.
He believes the young people have all it takes to put this nation in a different developmental orbit.
For him, any young person can survive without getting into things that put their life and others in danger. All they have to do is believe in them, begin with a step and never stop.
On business sustainability, Emmanuel says you have to ensure you give your customer a reason to trust you and do the work efficiently so that they will return again, this time with a friend.
“The best part about just starting is that someone will eventually notice your efforts and give you the support you need to grow. We are thankful to Safaricom Foundation for believing in us and supporting us. We hope they will continue doing the same for other youth groups.
“Our long-term goal is to expand the business, Get a larger place with improved equipment that offers high-value services and employ more youths from within and outside the Kariobangi North area,” Emmanuel said.