Leaders must explain their job creation strategy
The season of political promises is with us again. One of the common promises is that youth unemployment will finally be solved. All major parties agree on the importance of creating jobs. Writes Ndungu Kahiga
They only differ on strategy and slogans. Yet we have been here before. Promised heaven, only to be bitterly disappointed. Promises come cheap in Kenya. But delivery is a rare commodity.
But we can change this by demanding our leaders go beyond words and slogans to telling us how they will be implemented the promises. Below are some thoughts on
How the promise of youth employment can be kept.
The past two governments have done a fantastic job in building the physical infrastructure that will underpin development if we do things right. What is needed now is to build the kind of human infrastructure that will exploit our roads, railways, electricity and communications networks to grow the economy.
Education is the sector responsible for building such human infrastructure. The TVET sub-sector is responsible for training Kenyans in market-ready skills. Yet it has often
failed the nation. Let us vote for leaders who will commit to change this, first by completing all TVET reforms that were started a decade ago, under the TVET Act of 2013.
TVET is under the Ministry of Education. Despite its strategic importance, it receives less than 10 per cent of the ministry’s budget. Kenyans should demand a commitment of resources to TVET that match its importance. Enough to ensure a majority of youth receive the skills that will enable them to become employed or self-employed.
Our leaders never tire of telling us that agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy. You would expect their actions to mirror these words.
Yet only 5 per cent of students in college learn agriculture. No wonder last year, we imported Sh150 billion worth of food.
And, yes, this included the famous potatoes from Egypt that we read about. In short, we are sending jobs to other countries even as our youth are jobless. This is not acceptable.
We can start by demanding that leaders spell out how they will execute their rosy campaign pledges. Then we can choose the best plans, and the owners with them.
You promise to deliver jobs for the youth? Good. First tell us how you will fix agriculture so that we produce more of our food.
What about manufacturing? Today we import everything, including toothpicks. How will you change this? Finally tell us you will fix the TVET sector so that it graduates employable youth in all the sectors that our economy needs to grow.
These are not difficult things to do if there is the political will. Many ideas now gathering dust on government shelves could put Kenya on the path to economic recovery in less
than five years.
Let’s consider a few.
Put employers in the skills decision driving seat. Give them a right to say what skills are needed and how many. Then demand that TVETs deliver. Align programmes like the Youth and Women funds to the TVET sector. Allocate part of these funds to support school based entrepreneurship practice, so that youth learn business as part of their training.
Expand the number of agriculture sector skills programmes and support the engagement of youth in food production. Extend internet and electricity connections to all colleges. Then challenge them to become innovation hubs, solving real problems.
Reward those that do well.
The informal sector can be a powerful aid to youth employment. Over 80 per cent of all jobs come from this sector. Yet we often ignore the SMEs, even as we roll out the red carpet to foreign investors.
Let us subsidize the cost of hiring fresh graduates or offering internships, by the SMEs. Many of them struggle to hire good workers, which stifles their growth. These subsidised workers, which can be given as tax rebates or cash, will be a godsend to
them and to the many youth who can’t join the labor market for lack of experience. As an indirect benefit, such a programme will help bring these informal businesses into the
formal sector and the tax bracket.
Finally let us commit to deliver these ideas through our devolved system. We have seen huge centralised programmes that become magnets for corruption. Let us beat these
crooks at the game, by devolving implementation to many centres, instead of one. In fact, let us vote for the leader who will commit to make devolution work and who will show us the best way to do this.
—The writer is the Executive Director of CAP Youth Empowerment, an NGO