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Columnists

Focus on youth investment groups can spur growth

Jobseekers in Nairobi
Jobseekers in Nairobi's city centre. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Youth unemployment in Kenya is still rampant, even among the educated. Youth are the majority among the unemployed Kenyans who have got no source of income. Out of every 10 unemployed Kenyans, seven of them are young people aged 35 and below.

This implores on youth from across the country to urgently innovate new strategies on how they can get ahead socio-economically. Youth associations that promote entrepreneurship, as has become the norm in the informal settlements of Nairobi, can yield multiple socio-economic gains if widely replicated. Without employment, youth in informal settlements are faced with poverty, which makes them vulnerable targets for criminal gangs and radical groups.

A survey by the World Bank showed that about 40 percent of those who join outlawed groups say they are motivated by a lack of jobs.

Entrepreneurial groups synergise and mobilise the youth towards socio-economic objectives. In informal settlements, such groups have provided an avenue for the youth to fight unemployment, eradicate youth poverty, shun crime and to look into the future with optimism.

There are many positive stories to tell about the role of youth entrepreneurial groups in socio-economic empowerment. In the same manner that women investment groups, chamas, have lifted millions of women from poverty, youth investment groups in entrepreneurship can create jobs for the youth, if supported and widely replicated. Business in youth entrepreneurship groups is centered around what groups of youth like doing, something that makes them focus more on pursuing their talents and passion as businesses.

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This empowers the youth to focus on their gift areas like in the creative industries where they make concepts for clothing, footwear, jewellery, furniture, catering and such others. Other passions could be landscaping and environmental conservation. All these ensure that youth collectively utilize their skills to earn an income.

Their coming together synergises their skills and creative ideas as they tap on each others strengths. In addition, youth investment groups are a sure way of empowering youth to raise capital for their business start-ups. In particular, a majority of the youth in informal settlements are banned and locked out of the access to business to financing.

Banks require collateral yet a majority them are poor. Such youths cite the rigorous documentation required in the access to the government-owned Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) and Uwezo Fund as complicated, tedious and the access to the documentation as costly due to corruption cartels in the processing of the applications.

Time has come for the government to rethink the design of Uwezo Fund and YEDF to make them more accessible.

If modelled as business grants and not loans, YEDF and Uwezo Fund can spur youth entrepreneurship groups across the country, enhance employment creation, restore ambition and focus among the youth, build economic resilience and give marginalised youth from urban slums and rural areas a competitive advantage.

RAPHAEL OBONYO comments on policy matters.

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