Has the government failed to create an enabling environment for creation of employment opportunities or the youth are to blame for being obsessed with white-collar jobs — which are already scant — while frowning upon the readily available jobs in the informal sector?
That is the discussion that dominated the ninth edition of Nation Leadership Forum on Monday as the youth aired their concerns over the worrying rate of unemployment in the country.
According to the Economic Survey 2019 by National Bureau of Statistics, about 5.5 million Kenyans, majority being the youth below the age of 35, are unemployed.
KNBS findings also revealed that the Jubilee government has only created 1.8 million jobs in six years.
The recently released World Bank report dubbed “Kenya Social Protection and Job Programmes Public Expenditure Review,” says Kenya has to create at least 900,000 jobs annually between now and 2025 to absorb the high number of youths joining the job market.
But according to Public Service, Youth and Gender CS Margaret Kobia, majority of the youth who are unemployed don’t know what to do even if they are given seed money to start businesses.
“Only 20 per cent of the youth know what they want to do while 60 per cent require further training and mentorship for them to discover what business they need to engage in to earn some income. The remaining 20 per cent have no idea on what to do,” said Prof Kobia during the Nation Leadership Forum at the University of Nairobi.
The CEO of Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), Dr Ezekiel Mutua, urged the youth to invest in the film industry, saying it is rich in job opportunities.
“The government is doing its part in creating a business enabling environment. The youth themselves also need to tap those opportunities. For instance, the creative economy offers a lot of job opportunities such as music, public performances; the area of entertainment is so rich,” said Dr Mutua.
But the youth accused the government of erecting barriers, such as tiresome bureaucracies, that hinder most of them from patenting their intellectual properties, getting film licences and even registering businesses.
“You cannot tell me for 12 years that all I need to get a job is a degree but when that degree doesn’t get me a job, you tell me that I am wrong. There has been a failure in that sense,” said radio presenter Adelle Onyango.
Executive director of the Institute of Human Resource Management Dorcas Wainaina said the youth should change their mindset and embrace jobs in the informal sector, which is currently the leading employer.
“It is not the responsibility of the government to provide jobs. It provides an environment that would lead to a situation where the economy creates jobs,” she said.
NMG editorial director Mutuma Mathiu urged education institutions to wake up to the new realities and prepare the youth for the modern and dynamic job market.
Mr Mathiu also challenged the youth to take up the mantle and change their own circumstances by providing positive leadership in their communities.
“Only you can build a better Africa that is just, fair and equitable that works for all over us and future generation,” said Mr Muthiu.
Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Human Resource at the University of Nairobi Stephen Kiama said the forum is aimed at awakening the nation from slumber especially the government to start building solid foundation through creation of enabling policies.