The youth of any country, it is often said, is its future. And that is true. After all, this group, aged 15-30 years, is where the bulk of the population is found. The rate of joblessness among them is about 40 per cent, or 5.2 million young adults.
Unfortunately, this is also the segment that contributes the least to national development, leaving the burden to a smaller portion of the population. The irony, however, is that this demographic, which has the potential to provide leadership, innovations and skills is not getting adequate opportunities.
Youth and Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia grappled with the question during the Nation Leadership Forum in Nairobi. But Prof Kobia says a majority of the unemployed youth don’t even know what to do if they were given seed money for business.
Some 60 per cent of them require further training and mentorship to discover what business they can engage in. Another 20 per cent have no idea about what to do.
Youth unemployment is a particularly serious challenge. According to official statistics, about 5.5 million Kenyans, mainly youth below 35, are unemployed. The policies may be spot on, but the increasingly loud criticism of the failure to effectively deal with this crisis is food for thought.
The young are not blameless, either. They are obsessed with white-collar jobs. But the government alone cannot do it. The private sector and other agencies must chip in.
There is a palpably growing restlessness over the lack of salaried jobs. Needed, however, is a mix where creative talents are also identified and nurtured for tangible returns. Unless young people are properly prepared for a modern and dynamic job market, their frustration will remain a ticking bomb.
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