Kenya’s youth dividend has been touted as its greatest asset if we could only marshal and direct adequate resources towards education, training and forward opportunities for gainful work.
The government has been very articulate in its blueprints, with the obvious political benefit that cracking this would bring. The private sector has been drawn into the vision, taking a corporate social responsibility and sustainable development goals angle to it, pumping in hundreds of millions into programmes and partnerships with technical, vocational education and training institutions that are meant to upskill youth, in some cases tool them and thereafter release them into the world to contribute to the economy.
The growth of the gig work economy, which in my opinion is an adjacent of what we call ‘jua kali’ sector has served to sell a narrative that this new age self-employment is the way to go.
Granted, the millennials and Gen Z are changing their ways of work, but I think this has been taken out of context if looked at from the lens of business basics with an agenda to form enterprises that have structure and whose value is more than the sum of its parts.
The taxman and other authorities are moving to clamp down on digital workers as their fragmented nature, while still demanding access or improvement of services are not contributing to the expenditure pot. Whether the taxes are put to good use is a discussion for another day.
We are unfortunately encouraging self-employment as opposed to entrepreneurship. What is the difference you ask? Entrepreneurship is about creating a business, while with self-employment, the person is the business. As an entrepreneur, your business, built right, can operate and generate revenue outside your active participation, with resources and processes at work.
As a self-employed person, value generation stops when you stop. The majority of those who go to and hopefully eventually graduate from our TVET institutions have blinders on, gunning for the self-employment track that devoid of any scale or leverage will be unable to access sustainable work opportunities or unlock competitive pricing for services that they offer.
Throwing technology at it by providing a marketplace may offer some reprieve, but transforming their mindset into that of entrepreneurship where they can entertain the possibility of coming together or with others to set up outfits that can provide services professionally, access capital, talent et cetera is the way to go.