The proportion of Kenya’s youth to the population is among the highest globally, presenting the economy with a vibrant manpower if put to productive use.
Kenya’s ratio of youth (aged 15-24) to the population stands at 20.3 per cent, above the world’s average of 15.8 per cent and 19.2 per cent for Africa.
The millennials add up to 10.1 million out of Kenya’s population of 49.7 million, data from US-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB) shows.
“A high youth share means that the trajectory for population growth in coming decades will be strong,” said Peter Goldstein of PRB. Ethiopia boasts the highest youth population share globally at 21.8 per cent, or 22.8 million, while Bulgaria has the least at 9.1 per cent.
At 20.3 per cent, Kenya ties with Sudan but trails Uganda’s 20.5 per cent youthful population. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has a youth share of 19 per cent, despite having the largest pool of millennials at 36.4 million out of a population of 190 million.
South Africa’s stands at 18 per cent while Egypt’s is 16 per cent. Experts point out that Kenya’s youthful workforce could present a labour dividend in terms of productivity, innovation and consumer market growth with the availability of opportunities.
The youth bulge could, however, breed runaway crime and other social evils in the absence of enough employment opportunities. The 15-24 age bracket, known as millennials, largely comprises high-schoolers, school dropouts, college goers and fresh graduates.
A World Bank report released last year shows that Kenya leads the region in youth unemployment at 17.3 per cent compared to only six per cent for neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania each.
Kenya’s unemployment crisis has been blamed on sluggish growth of formal sector jobs even as the country continues to produce thousands of university graduates every year.
“Parents are increasingly facing the cold reality that educating their kids to college is nowadays not a direct ticket to jobs as was previously the case,” said Anzetse Were, a development economist, calling for additional skills set to survive in the harsh job market.
The economy minted only 85,600 new formal jobs last year, down from 90,200 in 2015, indicating a slowdown in momentum.