THE MAJORITY VOTE

MWAURA: Youth don't need tokenism but well thought opportunities

It is important to address the skills gap ratio within the job market to create an equilibrium between labour and market demands.

In Summary

• ODM leader Raila Odinga has, on the other hand, promised to appoint four youths in the Cabinet and Sh6,000 stipend for all unemployed youth and poor households.

• DP William Ruto has long promised a bottom-up approach to jobless Kenyans through the creation of a constituency based Sh100 million kitty for small enterprises.

Dear reader,

Have you noticed that some people have taken our advice seriously about going to the drawing board on the message for the youth?

Have you seen a shift in focus from the old, tired narratives that can’t resonate with the young people anymore?

Yes, there is a shift in focus, with the youth being the target in this week’s electioneering hustle.

Reuben Kigame, the first blind and person with disability to run for the presidency, has rolled out his plan for the youth to include free education, access to business start-up loans, county rehabs for drugs and alcohol challenges, talent centres  for arts and sports, and inclusive leadership.

ODM leader Raila Odinga has, on the other hand, promised to appoint four youths in the Cabinet and Sh6,000 stipend for all unemployed youth and poor households.

He borrows from the BBI proposal of having a six-year tax holiday for youth start-ups and the creation of a youth commission. He further promises a national boda boda fund and 10,000 internships, including 1,000 of them in the United Nations.

Deputy President William Ruto has long promised a bottom-up approach to jobless Kenyans through the creation of a constituency based Sh100 million kitty for small enterprises.

Ruto has also been a great champion of technical, vocational education and training for young people. As a result, nearly each and every constituency now has a technical training institute across the country.

This is because of the realisation that the economy needs technical rather than managerial skills, if it’s to achieve Vision 2030. For example, it’s very difficult to get a good plumber since we have a lot of semi-skilled or poorly trained people offering such services.

The One Kenya Alliance, the emergent third force that is oscillating around Kalonzo Musyoka, is yet to give a counter proposal.  

Begs the question, will these ideas help in curing the myriad of challenges bedeviling today’s youth?  According to the Constitution, a youth is someone aged between 18-35 years and this is critical in Kenya, a country with a median age of 20 years.

This means 50 per cent of our population is below 20 years, thus a fairly young country.

How do we then leverage on this demographic dividend?

The Kenyan youth are tech survey and have taken up writing academic papers on any subject for students in top universities in the UK and the US through academic writing. 

They are so good at it that this has become a full-time job, creating a knowledge industry worth millions of dollars.  Further, about 10,000 of the youth flock to the Middle East and other countries as migrant workers, an engagement that has made remittances to be the single most foreign exchange earner for Kenya, surpassing tea and coffee. Kenyans are also known for innovations such as M-Pesa and other solutions that are globally acclaimed.

So, what needs to be done in concrete terms to address their issues?

To begin with, it’s important to address the skills gap ratio within the job market to create an equilibrium between labour and market demands.

Kenya is oversupplied with managerial skills vis-à-vis demand for hands on technical skills to fuel programmes such as public housing. The need for quality vocational training, therefore, cannot be underscored.

For example, to construct an affordable house, one requires at least eight people if not more. This means a well laid out national housing scheme has the potential to employ thousands of youths at a go.

Second, there is need to encourage the budding information and communication technology industry to make Kenya as a hub for innovation.

Resources are required for skills and technology transfer and more so commercialisation. I had proposed a youth innovation fund in the 11th Parliament that is yet to be implemented. A need to synchronize the many government actors such as the National Research Fund, the Kenya Innovation Agency, the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation, the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute and the Kenya Industrial Estates are critical in reducing the red tape and duplication of efforts.

First things first though.

There is need for the government to completely desist from taxing unemployment through the demand for payment for the acquisition of various documents for one to secure a formal job.

I have already sought to address this through a petition in the Senate that sought to exclude first-time job seekers from getting clearance from Helb, CRB and the DCI etc at a fee. This needs to be fully implemented.

The other solution is in simplifying the setting up of a company. The requirements are not only stringent and superfluous but the process is also slow and demanding that it becomes very difficult for proper formalisation of business concepts and ideas by the young, restless and ambitious people.

Further, an export-led and import-driven consumer economy makes a mockery of our products in that we are exporting jobs and creating jobs for other people at the same time.

There is thus a serious need to relook at routes to markets of our raw materials to map out and re-establish value chains that localise jobs for our youth. Otherwise, our infrastructure that we are investing in to be paid by the youth in the long-term is benefiting us minimally.

Moreover, the fast tracking of the development of the northern corridor from Lamu to the Ethiopian border is critical in opening up jobs for the youth and should be prioritised.

It’s also important to redesign public employment by making it contractual so that as many youth as possible have an opportunity.  In addition, a flexible working routine to work on part time basis with increased connectivity and from different locations is also an area that can be used to leverage on industries such as the service and knowledge based economy.

The latter is also tied to online business as an emerging frontier for youth employment, yet this isn’t fully supported by  the government to realise its full potential.

The creative industry also requires good focus as it has the potential to not only create jobs for the youth but also present massive advantages in marketing Kenya as a choice destination.  In addition, through the arts such as film and sports, we are yet to fully reap from proper market organisation and segmentation to maximize on existing potential.

It’s also important to develop a guarantee system for young people with good ideas through a national incubation system through universities and colleges in conjunction with industries and venture capitalists and financial institutions to create pathways to overcome the bottlenecks arising from the demand for collateral for ease of access to business capital.

Finally, the estimated more than Sh15 trillion worth of offshore investments by various businessmen, government officials and individuals should be re-invested back in the country to turn around our economy.

This way, we shall have done justice to the youth rather than giving them piecemeal solutions that border on tokenism and the excitement that comes with the creation of an election euphoria. Yet a good number of the proposals on offer are not only poorly thought out but also impracticable and unsustainable .