‘The Youth Fact Book: InfinitePossibility or Definite Disaster’, a book I authored in 2010, has been recognized as an authoritative one stop shop of youth facts, figures and analysis with regard to the state of Kenya’s youth population. it was featured extensively in the article below.
Article by George Omondi
Increased spending on training is yet to match the rate of job creation in the country, a trend that analysts warn could have grave consequences because young people with skills are likely to remain unemployed.
Private companies have lately been putting billion of shillings of their social responsibility budgets to support education through scholarships and buying of learning materials and equipment, thereby giving the youth access to education.
On its part, the government has introduced free primary and subsidised secondary education, raising the budgetary allocation to the Education Ministry to 73.8 per cent of the Sh236.6 billion spent on social sector in the last financial year.
“This heavy investment supply side of the labour market is likely to go to waste if not accompanied by detailed curriculum revision to allow the youth to create their own jobs and export surplus to other economies,” said Ms Katindi Sivi Njonjo, a policy analyst at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
The Kenya housing and population census data released late last year indicated that 78.3 per cent of Kenya’s 38.6 million people (30.2million) are aged below 35 years of age – the same category that has been hit most by unemployment.
Ms Njonjo attributes youth unemployment to the high population growth rate of 2.8 per cent – which is above the global average of 2.1 per cent – that has outpaced the rate at which the national wealth has been growing annually.
In the past few years, the government has come up with entrepreneurship programmes such as the Youth Enterprise Development Fund and Kazi Kwa Vijana programmes but the number of unemployed youth continues to grow as thousands of young people graduate from learning institutions every year.
“Some of these programmes have not met expectation because they are conceived with a mindset that views the youth as menial labourers at a time when focus has shifted to creating knowledge economies,” said Ms Njonjo.
Mr David Nalo, permanent secretary at the East African Community Ministry, said the government was targeting the ongoing rebuilding of the economy in Rwanda and Burundi to provide some form of employment to Kenya’s skilled and jobless youth.
The ministry plans to set up one-stop youth resource centres across the country to provide information on employment and entrepreneurship opportunities arising under each of the four pillars of regional economic integration – custom union, common market, monetary union and political integration.
“The youth unemployment in this country is a time bomb that we have to defuse using every available opportunity and resources,” said Mr Nalo, adding that the youth resource centres will raise the number of youths being absorbed in regional projects.
The move comes hot on the heels of last month’s signing of the mutual recognition agreement in the region that now allows professional and academic bodies in the region to recognize qualifications and standards of all member states.
This means a professional or academic certificate issued in any of the member states will be recognized in all the five member states, easing the job hunt across borders.
At the regional level, Mr Nalo said, partner states have agreed to establish five centres of excellence in each of the states to develop and strengthen technical innovations by the youth in the region, in a move aimed at creating a technological competitive edge for the region.
But even as concern rises over the low growth of the demand side of the labour market, the education ministry has announced its plan to establish 15 new public university colleges across the country in the coming months.
This move is expected to significantly increase the number of graduate job seekers into the market.
The recent campaign by the government seeking to allow middle-level public institutions to offer degree programmes has already increased enrolment in local universities to 200,000 students by end of 2010.
“We are keen to ensure that the country’s higher education is not only relevant to local development needs but also prepares students to compete effectively in the global knowledge-based economy.” President Kibaki said last week when he granted a charter to the Kericho-based Kenya Highlands Evangelical University.
Ms Eldah Onsomu, acting head of social sector division at Kenya Institute for Public Policy and Research Analysis (Kippra) says just about 24 per cent of Kenya’s youth are in formal employment. She maintains that there is a need for channels and preparation for youth to employ themselves.
“There is genuine need to focus on creation of quality jobs but since the formal sector is not expanding as fast, the government also needs to empower the youth to create wealth in the informal sector,” said Ms Onsomu.
The officials are visiting schools, colleges and universities where they hope to convince students who fail to get further education opportunities in Kenya to seek even cheaper higher education in Tanzania and Uganda.
This is in the first phase of an awareness drive initiated by the ministry.
Lobbyists have however being pushing for radical pro-youth policies to address unemployment in the country.
“The government needs to adopt youth-friendly economic policies such as ensuring each person holds one job, and is strictly required to retire at age 55, while reserving 30 per cent of government procurement for youthful entrepreneurs, and investing more national resources in sports, music and the arts,” argues George Nyongesa, national convener of the Youth Forum.