Kenya’s youth chasing elusive jobs, enterprise dreams


A majority of Kenyan youth say they have not benefited from the government-initiated projects, a new survey shows.

Despite the billions of shillings the Jubilee and Kibaki governments have injected into youth projects, the Kenya Youth Report shows 76 per cent say they have not benefited and 58 per cent have no knowledge of the programmes.

“When around 70 per cent say they have not benefited from government initiatives, we need to look at the methods of disbursement for these funds, who they are targeting and structural barriers that might be hindering access,” said Dr Alex Awiti, the Director of East African Institute which surveyed the youth.

The choosy Generation Y has proved to be one of the most complex group to understand in terms of expectations and preferences.

The Kenya Youth Survey Report 2015 highlights the dilemma the government faces in winning the generation game and catering for the needs of a group whose desire is entrepreneurship to make quick money and with high tolerance for corruption and tax evasion.

The survey shows more young people are going into entrepreneurship, but Dr Awiti says this is a last resort option after failure to get a job rather than a cohesive way of making a living.

According to the survey, a university graduate has 50 per cent chance of getting than 20 per cent of starting a business. Dr Awiti said many of the youth groups going into self-employment quit once they secure formal jobs.

“The youth are not inherently entrepreneurial, if we simplified the processes and pre-qualification requirements and eligibility you are likely to have more young people benefiting from the funds,” he said.

For a long time, young people have been thought to be a homogenous group with projects tailored with one-size-fits-all approach. But as Kenya moves to a knowledge-based work force, focus will shift to tailoring youth projects for a tech-savvy generation.

Most of those interviewed said they would like to pursue careers in engineering, law, medicine and teaching. Only 11 per cent would go into farming.

‘‘A well-educated population comes with high expectations for labour participation and a high quality of life,’’ notes the Kenya Youth Report Survey.

The working-age population is expected to increase, but the job growth is not keeping up. A Talent Report released last April indicates that of the 50,000 graduates leave Kenyan universities yearly, but only half of them are absorbed into the job market.

Last year, the National Youth Service said it had engaged 70,000 youth and paid Sh471 daily for work done.

In 2009, the Kazi Kwa Vijana programme was launched to employ urban and rural youth in labour-intensive public projects like road maintenance and waste collection.

Unfortunately, the World Bank-funded project was cancelled in 2011 following claims of mismanagement of money.

Treasury secretary Henry Rotich this financial year allocated Sh1 billion to the Enterprise Kenya, Sh850 million to the Uwezo Fund, Sh500 million to the Women’s Enterprise Fund and Sh300 million to the Youth Enterprise Development Fund.

Over Sh17.7 billion worth of tenders have also been set aside to be allocated to women, young people and persons with disabilities under the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities programme.

But despite the many youth projects over the years, only 20 per cent of youth interviewed in the study by the East African Institute said they had benefited from a government-run initiatives. A majority felt that the government had not introduced useful projects in the last one year.