Politics and policy
Annan team to confront jobs challenge
Posted Monday, October 8 2012 at 20:24
- The youth unemployment rate in Kenya remains among the highest in the world at 65 per cent despite the government’s attempt to address it through state-financed programmes aimed at creating new income opportunities.
- At least 92 per cent of the 500,000 youths leaving secondary schools have no vocational skills, making it difficult for them to fit in the labour market.
- Unemployment among the youth is believed to have played a big part in fomenting the social tensions that led to the 2008 post-election violence.
When the Kofi Annan-led team of Eminent Persons opens its assessment of Kenya’s prospects in the run-up to next year’s general election Tuesday morning, youth unemployment will be top on the agenda.
Mr Annan, who brokered the peace deal that pulled Kenya from the precipice in early 2008, will be confronted by the fact that mass joblessness is the only Agenda Four item that has changed for the worse.
Agenda Four of the National Accord, brokered by the African Union’s Panel of Eminent Persons, dealt with issues relating to Kenya’s long term stability, including the writing of a new Constitution.
The youth unemployment rate in Kenya remains among the highest in the world at 65 per cent despite the government’s attempt to address it through state-financed programmes aimed at creating new income opportunities.
“Youth unemployment requires a serious discussion among the political class,” says Kwame Owino, chief executive of the Institute of Economic Affairs. “The rate at which the formal and informal segments of the economy are creating jobs cannot match the huge number of people leaving schools.”
The Ministry of Youth Affairs estimates that 750,000 young people enter the job market every year.
At least 92 per cent of the 500,000 youths leaving secondary schools have no vocational skills, making it difficult for them to fit in the labour market.
The ministry also estimates that the number of young people aged between 15 and 30 years (estimated at 14 million in the 2009 census) will rise to 17 million by the end of this year.
The government has in the past five years launched a number of initiatives such as the Youth Enterprise Development Fund and Kazi Kwa Vijana initiative to create new opportunities but these have had only a marginal impact on overall unemployment levels.
The AU’s Panel of Eminent Persons starts its four-day mission to Kenya this morning. Its head, Kofi Annan, and former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, will hold a press conference on Thursday where they are expected to release a final score card on Kenya’s preparedness for a peaceful election next year. They are also expected to hold key meetings with top government officials, business leaders, civil society, religious leaders, media and the international community.
Unemployment among the youth is believed to have played a big part in fomenting the social tensions that led to the 2008 post-election violence.
The latest edition of the World Bank’s African Pulse publication says sub-Saharan Africa is generally undergoing a demographic transition in which young and active people form the largest proportion of the population.
“This transition should be viewed positively as it means Africa is now the main source of a young labour force especially to the developed world whose population is now ageing,” said Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank chief economist.
Kenya has only accommodated the majority of this young population in the informal sector where pay is low.
"African governments must improve skills of the young people and provide them with infrastructure that is needed to raise productivity and the quality of informal sector jobs,” said Mr Devarajan.