Kenya risks missing its growth targets due to faltering focus on youth employment and provision of an enabling environment for them to participate in policy making and governance, a new UN study shows.
The 2009 National Human Development Report (NHDR) highlights lack of adequate youth representation in governance issues, promotion based on years of service, and the long retirement period by civil servants as major hindrances to youth development in Kenya.
“Lack of pre-requisite experience, qualification, age, economic strength and political patronage continue to undermine development of the youth in ascending to policy and management positions,” reads the report.
It notes that since policy and management decisions are made by civil servants in upper job groups, the absence of the youth bars them from participation in decision-making yet they are tasked with the implementation of the same decisions and directives.
Speaking during the launch of the report, the Minister of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030, Wycliff Oparanya, said the plight of the youth in Kenya has captured both national and international attention.
“Three quarters of the youth in Kenya are estimated to be unemployed. This must be reversed if we envision to attain our development goals,” said Mr Oparanya.
UNDP Resident Representative Aeneas Chuma said the country must prepare to deal with consequences of youth unemployment such as a rise in anti social behaviour including crime, prostitution, alcoholism, and drug trafficking if it fails to tap into the youth meaningfully.
The report is the sixth, with the first having been published in 1999. It points out that the high level of unemployment undermines the country’s potential for development, leaving youths’ energy and resourcefulness untapped while raising dependency levels.
“The youth... has the potential to catapult Kenya’s economy to faster development because there are potentially more workers in the economy than dependants,” says the report.
However, the study faults the youth for failing to use their numerical strength to make their impact felt in politics, representation and participation in national governance.
The report argues that politics in Kenya is so commercialised that the youth lack the requisite capital to marshal their fellow youths into electing them.
The report recommends creation of a favourable environment to reduce youth dependency levels.
“With the right combination of motivation, ideas and opportunities, young people are able to establish productive and creative business ventures and shift themselves from the status of job seekers to job creators.”
The report recommends support for commercialisation of sporting activities and creative arts to provide alternative employment opportunities.
“Many young Kenyans are engaging in sport, music and performing arts as a way of earning an income and improving their standards of living,” it says.
The report also recommends a review of the policy on extending the retirement age from 55 to 60 years to apply only to specialised areas of government service and to be determined by outstanding performance.