Kenya, and by extension the East African region is taxiing towards a major economic transformation, that is being driven by the youth. The youth are increasingly taking up a greater sway in the direction and pace the economy will take in the coming years as they are the holders of the greatest ideas, the energy and the commitment that is needed to drive the transformation.
But there is a big challenge ahead, as more youths find themselves without jobs. The fact that youth unemployment is a global issue cannot be wished away. The youth who account for four out of every 10 people without a job represent nearly 90 percent of the world’s young people being based in the developing world.
In Africa, almost 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24. The continent also has the youngest population in the world who account for almost 45 percent of the total labour force. Unlike other developing regions, sub-Saharan Africa’s population is becoming more youthful, due to the high fertility rate underlying the demographic momentum.
As a nation, we continue to grapple with the unemployment problem that affects the youth across the nation. Today, statistics indicate that approximately 800,000 young Kenyans enter the labour market every year with majority of the unemployed youth being below 35 years old.
As much as unemployment might be seen as a challenge, it has opened a whole lot of opportunities for various stakeholders to fold their sleeves and rise up to the challenge.
Devolution as a stimulus for job creation
One of the most outstanding development has been the transfer of key services and functions to counties. The transition to devolved system of governance has resulted in opening up of new sectors of the economy as well as increased economic activities impacting positively on employment creation.
The amendment ofprocurement rules in 2013 to reserve 30 per cent of public contracts for the youth, women and persons with disability, establishment of thethe Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) initiative to facilitate enterprises owned by the youth, women and persons with disability to participate in government procurement as well as the setting up of Uwezo Fund are some of the avenues through which youth have gained meaningful engagement.
New Frontier of Growth
Reviving agriculture remains Kenya’s main pathway to poverty reduction while the real gains will come from increasing productivity in the Jua Kali sector which comprises 90 per cent of all businesses in the country and contributes to 3 percent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP).
The existence of an enabling environment for businesses to carry out their activities is a critical step towards the realization of Kenya’s goal of sustainable industrialization and inclusive growth. As industry stakeholders, there is need for us to bring in complementary skills and competencies that enhance the productivity of the Kenyan youth.
We have realized that more focus need to be put on investments geared towards transforming the informal sector which according to the Economic Survey 2015, created 693,000 new jobs in 2014 constituting 82.7 per cent of the total employment.
Supporting Global Sustainability Goals
As espoused in the deliberations during the 2015 UN General Assembly member countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that marked an ambitious and urgent expansion to addressing the world’s most pressing challenges. One of the most pronouncements that caught the world attention was goal number 8 that set a target that by 2020, all member state need to have developed and operationalized a global strategy for youth employment.
The broader sustainability agenda goes much further than the MDGs in addressing the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people. There is also need to encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships aimed at creating an inclusive, employment-creating and sustainable growth strategy geared towards addressing the special needs of the youth.
One of the key proposition we have been advancing as a government is that offorging and strengthening linkages between the informal sector and the private sector in an effort to support the youth. This is hinged on the fact that the impact of a stronger private sector and economic growth on youth employment requires intelligent policies based on a sound understanding of the issues that the young face in finding, and holding on to, decent employment opportunities.
The private sector not only provides the much needed funding for the various projects, it also brings business acumen and project management skills including the muscle to advocate for solutions to be adopted for the success of the various undertakings.
KCB Group Taking the Lead
Big corporates are realizing this gap. KCB Group prides itself as a pacesetter when it comes to investment in youth initiatives. Through our social investment arm KCB Foundation, the bank has initiated aKShs.50 billion 2Jiajiriprogrammeexpected to benefit at least 500,000 youths-creating 2.5 million direct and indirect jobs-in a period of 5 years,potentiallyopening up new possibilities for small and informal businesses to thrive.
The programme which also encompasses a business challenge for start-ups will enable young entrepreneurs to submit their business ideas for funding in order to boost their productivity. This will mainly be centered in the leather, agro-processing, furniture, metal fabrication and other trades in the informal sector by the end of 2016.
I believe that that through collaborative efforts with various stakeholders,the journey towards the realization of our industrialization dream will be achieved in smooth manner.
It is the young people who have built some of the world’s greatest innovations, riding on a wave of technological advancement.. They are creating cutting-edge mobile technologies to solve African problems in communities closest to them. Young people in Kenya and on the continent at large are more upbeat about their ability to become entrepreneurs than their peers in any other region and therefore the need for us as private sector players and investors to pat your backs by either making access to finances for startups easy or by offering mentorship programmes and supporting their business growth.
(The writer is the KCB Group Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Kenya Bankers Association)