How to defuse jobless youth time-bomb
Posted Sunday, June 24 2012 at 19:01
Youth unemployment is a time-bomb waiting to explode. Yet, we do not lack resources to engage them in gainful employment.
Rather, we lack a coherent policy for mobilising resources for their benefit.
Young people are a tremendous resource, a potent energy just waiting to be harnessed so that they can mobilise resources into income-generating projects at individual or collective levels.
The Youth Enterprise Fund was a good idea, but now it hobbles, thanks to poor planning for its implementation, and sheer greed.
Kenya has never been in a better position than now to harness the energy of its youth.
I will not concentrate on lampooning the government for failure to give direction on this, but rather highlight the opportunities available for young people to make money legally.
For example, the market for agricultural products is expanding rapidly. A class of moneyed young men and women is emerging. These are well-educated youths who have gone back to the farm.
There are several push factors behind this. Urbanisation has created a consumer class whose food tastes are different from those of the older generation.
Urbanisation has created a multi-billion- shilling market for non-traditional foods like horticultural products. The market potential is enormous. Suppose half of Kenya’s 40 million people consume a kilo of tomatoes every week per head.
Assuming, conservatively, a kilo costs Sh20. This would mean a weekly Sh40 million market for tomatoes alone.
Computing figures is, of course, the easy part. The challenge is in coming up with concrete strategies to capture the expanding middle class market, and commit these to sustainable projects.
At least 43 per cent of the population is already in the middle class which generates wealth but also likes spending it. This is indicated by the ever-spreading supermarket culture, which is creating more opportunities for young people to make money.
In fact, an emerging problem for supermarkets is the lack of consistent supply of quality products. And this is just the supply part.
There are a whole range of economic opportunities which enable entrepreneurs to capture more profits than they would supplying raw products.
Value addition is suitable for young entrepreneurs in agribusiness since it disengages them from direct farm-level production, which could set them into conflict with parents over land rights.
In land-poor areas like central Kenya, some parents will not allow rights of land-use by their children.
Where these rights are proffered, more opportunities could be opened up by using technology to enhance agricultural resource management.
This includes better analysis of soil, moisture, temperature, and timing in the use of inputs which will lead to farmers producing only what they can sell.