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Is the Government Doing Enough to Tackle Youth Unemployment in Kenya?

By Amina Wako

The faint chirping of birds, golden rays of sunshine, dewdrops over the green grass, all signify a new inning as Martin walks to his Shamba to kick-start

his day. The young man who is a graduate from a local university turned in to a farmer after 5 years of unemployment.
The idea of farming came to Martin’s mind when a friend of his shared his success story in Agro-business. Martin was excited about the opportunity but he had one dilemma. The land.
Being born and raised in the capital of Kenya, Martin had no prior knowledge about any family land so his only way out was for him to hire land for his farming dream to be realized    
The location would depend on what Martin wanted to farm. After months of research and fact-finding, Martin settled on tomato farming in Kajiado County
3 years down the line, Martin is a full-time farmer, “This is my workplace from Monday to Friday and is glad I took that decision. I would still be looking for employment and adding to the statistics of unemployed youth in the country,” Said Martin
According to a survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), seven million Kenyans are unemployed while 1.4 million have been desperately looking for work.
A high level of youth unemployment is associated with lack of adequate education and marketable skills, fluctuating demand for labor, demand the experience by potential employers, an economic model that is not supporting enterprise to grow jobs, and the relatively high youth population.

In June this year, the education CS Amina Mohammed directed all universities and colleges to establish career service offices. The offices will act as a bridge between industry and academia by equipping graduates with marketable skills.
"But tackling youth unemployment goes beyond skills training, and will require strategic partnerships in research and training between universities, colleges and local manufacturers, and grants and incentives to spur youth entrepreneurship," Mr. Raphael Obonyo a multi-award-winning youth advocate said.
Mr. Obonyo is working with pawa254 and ActionAis Keya under their project #JengaHustle. He is currently looking at the policies and legislative in regards to youth employment in Kenya.  The project focuses on addressing the ticking bomb of youth unemployment in Kenya by looking at gaps in policies and opportunities to address youth unemployment in Kenya
“With the growing youth unemployment trends, social and political tensions that could affect the stability and prosperity of the country will always be there. Unfortunately, the country lacks responsive youth employment policies and laws that would halt the rising youth unemployment.” Added Mr. Obonyo

Initiatives started to empower youth have lacked good leadership, face problems of poor institutional design and support, and affected by corruption.
For instance, the Youth Enterprise Development Fund was a great idea but you cannot just throw money at the youth without proper training them on how to start and manage a business.
Uwezo fund, on the other hand, has many loopholes when it comes to the recovery of disbursed loans. Just in 2016, a total of Sh800 million was lost. This is about half of the amount due for repayment and at least 18 percent of the funds loaned to the youth under the Uwezo Fund.

Affirmative Action in the implementation of the 30% Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) has denied the youth the space to be accorded more opportunities. Deceitful businesspersons are fronting companies registered by youth to do business with the government, only for the true owners to end up pocketing the funds.

It is therefore imperative that the government moves with speed to address policy issues in funding for youth business startups, especially the access to these funds, with a review of the documentation required


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