Elected Youth Politicians Should Invest their Legislative Energy on the Informal Sector to Accelerate Youth Employment in Kenya

Kenya leads East African countries with the unemployment rate. At 17.6 percent Kenya’s unemployment is highest compared to Uganda at 6 percent, Tanzania at 6.3 percent, and Rwanda at 3 percent. [1]

This high unemployment provides an opportunity for elected young leaders to provide youth-centric solutions to the problem of gainful employment for youth.

Approximately 80 percent of Kenya’s population is made up of youth between the ages of (18-35). 55 percent of the youth in the country are unemployed. This population keeps growing despite the scarcity of jobs for the youth who is in need of employment the most.[2]

Many people have viewed the issue of youth unemployment as a colossal problem. Phrases such as “ticking time bomb,” have been bandied around. However, substantial departure should be encouraged from viewing young people as a problem but rather, as a potential resource to be harnessed.

Although we have had multiple efforts from the government trying to address youth unemployment, little success has been achieved. Unfortunately, the young people are still unemployed and underemployed. The high youth unemployment has yielded many social ills like crime.

Unfortunately, the rate of economic growth does not match the rate of population growth. As of 2016, the population stood at 48 million people. In the same year, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stood at U$D 70 million.4
Despite the annual economic growth of around 5.8% in 2016, [7] the country still can’t accommodate the ever-increasing number of youth unemployed.

However, the informal sector has the potential of providing meaningful employment to the youth. According to a report by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, the informal sector provided seven hundred thousand new jobs in 2016, whereas, the formal sector provided eighty-five thousand new jobs only.[3]

As much as the informal sector provides space for employment, it faces some critical challenges. Youth find it difficult to establish formal enterprises. They thus prefer the jobs in the informal sector, which has ease of entry. Cumbersome processes such as acquiring the business license and tax requirements discourage them from the business environment.

Elected youth leaders should endeavour to legislate policy that will enable the Ministry of Devolution and planning, Ministry of public works and youth affairs and that of trade, to create a friendly business climate that can encourage young people to establish business and become entrepreneurs.

A case study in Ethiopia shows that unemployment rate can reduce if the government commits itself to supporting the youth, for example, the young people are given preferences in the construction of roads, railway lines and also in irrigation. Through the effort, the youth unemployment rate in Ethiopia has declined by 50 percent.[5]

Another setback that the youth encounter especially those in the technical and vocational education institutions is the lack of opportunity to practice their craft. Hence disconnect between their studies and practice in the practical job environment.

The elected youth leaders should learn from Germany that embraces the dual school system, which ensures that learners benefit adequately from the training opportunity offered by the industry.5
Similar linkages, between training and practice, should be encouraged in Kenya and mainstreamed through the education system.

This can be implemented if the government also offers tax rebates to the business so that they can have the incentives to train the youth.

Young people are regarded as a creative lot if they do not get the support to transform the innovative ideas into the business; the unemployment is bound to persist. Without support and recognition of the creative ideas, it will go a long way in dealing with the menace.

Elected youth leaders need to ensure that all technical and vocational learning institutions get sufficient support to improve the youth’s employability skills. They should also legislate policy to ensure the curriculum offered in the school is direction and relevant to meeting the skills required by the industries. There need to have adequate cooperation between the education sector and the industries so that they can generate a curriculum in harmony with the skills and Knowledge required in the job market. They should also encourage more enrollment of youth in technical vocational learning institutions.[6]

Youth unemployment doesn’t necessarily affect the youth only, but it is a problem that cuts across all ages. It also affects not only our economic progress as envisioned by Kenya Vision 2030 but also on our social and political life as a nation. Therefore it is important that the problem is addressed with the seriousness that goes beyond superficial window-dressing.

By Zebby Nyakiangana,

Research Assistant,
Eastern Africa Policy Centre.

1. hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/2016_human_development_report.pdf
2. https://www.aku.edu/eai/…/kenya-youth-survey-report-executive-summary-2016.pdf
3. www.devolutionplanning.go.ke/images/hb/Economic%20Survey%202017.pdf
4. https://tradingeconomics.com/kenya/gdp
5. http://bildung-foerdert-entwicklung.de/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Youth-unemployment.pdf
6. http://home.hiroshima-u.ac.jp/~cice/wp-content/uploads/publications/15-2/15-2-05.pdf
7. https://www.focus-economics.com › Countries › Kenya