We all know of someone who has graduated with a certificate, diploma or degree but, years down the line, is still searching for a job.
We also know of young people in our families and communities who could not progress with their education due to lack of money.
Some are still hopeful that they will find an opportunity while others have given up and sought solace in vices such as drug abuse and crime.
This speaks to the challenge that is youth unemployment in Kenya.
The country’s youth unemployment rate is 55 per cent, according to a recent survey by the Aga Khan University. Youth between 18 and 25 are twice more likely to be unemployed, compared to those aged 26 to 35. This challenge is, however, not unique to Kenya.
Although the International Labour Organisation (ILO) projects that the unemployment rate in sub-Saharan Africa will remain at 7.2 per cent this year, the number of jobless people is expected to increase by one million due to a high growth of the region’s labour force.
Globally, unemployment is expected to remain at 5.6 per cent. This underscores the importance of continuous discussion and partnerships to implement sustainable programmes that will promote youth economic empowerment.
On Sunday, August 12, the world marked the International Youth Day. The event offered an opportunity for all stakeholders to seek ways to meaningfully engage young people to enable them to have sustainable livelihoods.
It is estimated that a million young people are ready to enter the job market every year but lack the opportunities. The economy is unable to create jobs at the rate needed to employ them. This has left many of them disappointed and frustrated.
Most of these young people can lift themselves out of poverty through entrepreneurship but face constraints such as lack of access to start-up financing, managerial and entrepreneurial skills, relevant exposure and networks for starting and growing a business.
They also lack of apprenticeship and have limited capacity to take advantage of available youth-focused government funds.
These have led to a mismatch between the aspirations of youth to empower and uplift themselves through entrepreneurship and the opportunities available to them to translate these aspirations into a productive and fulfilling future.
Discussions at the national level revolving around providing viable and sustainable opportunities for youth abound.
We are also seeing many private sector players coming up with innovative youth programmes to close the unemployment gap.
The private sector must continue to create employment opportunities for young people to reduce their vulnerability to crime and radicalisation into terrorism.
There is still room for intervention as the existing initiatives in the public and private sectors are not enough to address the gap.
Young people must not shy away from entry-level job opportunities. Both these and technical, vocational education training (TVET) are seen as being “uncool”. But these jobs provide a stepping stone to further employment and incomes.
The future of work lies in the service industry, and soft skills such as honesty, integrity, resilience, grit and sales will provide linkages to jobs.
When young people have both the ability to succeed and advance economically and the power to make and act on economic decisions that lift them out of poverty, their lives will be positively transformed.
The income from their labour will allow them to save more, invest more, consume more as well as raise healthier, better-educated families.
Ms Mulinge and Ms Kamanthe are Trustees, Safaricom Foundation. [email protected]