As it appeared in the Daily Nation on September 19th, 2017
Every year, millions of youth in Kenya are ready for the job market. Unfortunately, many of these young people take too long to secure gainful employment or to get into self-employment. While some are clear on the path that their career will take, others are clueless as they transition into the job market. Some take up whatever opportunity comes their way and make the most out of it; many take much longer selecting between the few options available, while others simply never settle down into anything productive and gainful.
Unemployment is a major tragedy that we continue to face as a Nation. According to the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) 2017 report, Kenya’s unemployment is at 39.1 percent. As I have reflected on this figure, a number of questions have lingered in my mind. Are we having an honest national conversation on job creation in Kenya? Is the government providing a conducive environment for sustainable economic growth and job creation? Is the current economic growth stimulating creation of adequate jobs? Do our current public polices stimulate job creation? Is our education adequately preparing our young people for the job market? Do those entering the job market have the skills needed? Are we doing all that needs to be done to create more jobs? At our current economic growth rate, are we likely to ever get to a single digit unemployment rate?
Any economist will allude to the fact that sustained economic growth is positively related to job creation. Though I am not an economist, I know that one of the ways we sense economic growth is through jobs created. Most of these jobs are created by businesses. Globally, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises are believed to create the majority of new jobs. If you look at the United States of America for example, some of the largest job creators are companies such as Amazon, Apple and Wal-Mart that were once start-ups. On its website, Apple Inc. states that it is responsible for creating over 2 million jobs across all the states in the USA. Closer home, we have the likes of Safaricom that have created thousands of jobs. Smart companies create more jobs. These companies also take up the responsibility to protect the jobs they have created. It therefore saddens me to see some of our companies lose their ability to hold together leading to loss of jobs.
In Kenya, we have great resources both natural and human that could be used to create more jobs. It is unfortunate that we import even the simplest of products such as tooth picks and basic furniture. Despite our resources, our production is yet to reach efficiency and quality levels witnessed elsewhere. In addition, many of our college graduates are still too focused on getting white-collar jobs. I often come across university graduates who studied entrepreneurship looking for a job or others with skills that are a complete mismatch to the skills required in the job market. We definitely need to be more deliberate about creating additional jobs. Maybe if each one of us gave a little more attention to job creation, we could create just one more job in our lifetime! In addition, maintenance and protection of jobs already created needs to be a priority. As a country, I believe we have what it takes to create many more jobs!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy