As the 47 county governors meet in Kirinyaga for the 6th annual conference early next month, a time has come for them to seriously interrogate how they can end joblessness among the youth. The problem of unemployment has largely been associated with the national government, which has since devolved most of its functions to the counties.
Also, the national government has in most cases looked incompetent in addressing unemployment going by the many programmes successive governments have initiated without success. If the county governments are not properly embedded in the ‘Big Four Agenda’ that is defining Jubilee’s development plan, as it presently looks, desired results will not be achieved even if the national government yields to the ongoing clamour and cedes more cash to the devolved units.
County governments are the game changer in two of the Big four agendas, namely expansion of manufacturing sector and food security. The central government must be applauded for the huge infrastructural projects it has initiated to connect the counties and country at large.
Three crucial areas are the construction of the roads to connect peri-urban and rural areas, transmission of the electricity power to all regions in the country and provision of water through dams.
With these crucial infrastructural projects even in places that have suffered marginalization for many years, it is now time to ask what counties can do to create jobs for the youth.
The county governments, most of which are rated wasteful and with a mind set of autonomous and unaccountable attitude, must shed off these traits and tell the country of the programs they have lined up to boost Kenyatta’s development agenda.
Devolution gave the youth hope that it would bring close service delivery, increase job opportunities and improved governance. Far from it, if the reports on the impact of devolution are anything to go by.
In order for the youth to benefit from the Big Four Agenda, there is need first for the county governments to lay down soft infrastructure by assessing the human resource capacity that exists in their respective counties; training needs and creation of vocational training to bridge gaps based on needs; and creations of entrepreneurial incubation centres. Unfortunately, youth affairs in the counties have been identified as a main agenda but only to be tacked in other broad areas such as social services, sports and gender. In addition, the funds allocated to youth affairs in general are low and do not reflect the prevalence of joblessness among youth in the counties.
The national unemployment rate stands at 40 percent with youth constituting at least 75% of the total jobless people in the country. More over, over 800,000 youth join the labour market every year.
Consequently, many youth cannot afford basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, and education. Reports gathered from all the 47 counties in Kenya shows that there are huge numbers of jobless youth in each.
Most unfortunately, in most of these counties, this situation is not considered dire.In essence, unemployment remains the single most serious problem facing youth in Kenya, and there is no denying that youth unemployment is a major threat to the achievement of Kenya’s Vision 2030.
There is also the need to increase the participation of youth in governance at county levels. Most of the counties have not adequately engaged youth in designing, planning and implementing programmes.
As a result, the knowledge, skills and energy that the youthful population harbours goes underutilized. To eliminate the possibility of alienating this potentially most productive group, decision makers and other stakeholders at the county level must take deliberate steps to ensure that the youth are at the front and centre of development plans.
With the process of reviewing the National Youth Policy almost complete, counties must put in place the necessary structures and finances for it adoption.More so, as opposed to the haphazard approach that we have since devolution came into play, county governments must create innovative measures to urgently tackle youth joblessness.
Raphael Obonyo, author of Conversation about the Youth in Kenya, Nairobi.