To tackle Kenya’s high youth unemployment, the private sector, academia and government must work together to develop innovative business models, industry-relevant curricula and enabling national policies.
This was the key message from Building Future Markets, a day-long event that brought together leaders from business, education and government to explore the private sector’s successes, challenges and potential to address Kenya’s youth unemployment. The event was organised by UNDP, the Business Call to Action (BCtA), the Kenya Private Sector Alliance and the UN Global Compact Network.
“The challenge of youth unemployment is compounded by the fact that 90% of all unemployed young people lack vocational skills, said Sicily Kariuki, cabinet secretary for youth and gender affairs in the Ministry of Public Service. “Addressing youth unemployment therefore calls for innovation, investment and commitment among all stakeholders.”
Unemployment is a major challenge that affects youth across Kenya. Approximately 800,000 young Kenyans enter the labour market every year and youth unemployment is estimated to be as high as 35%, compared to the overall national unemployment rate of 10%. Furthermore, 80% of unemployed Kenyans are below 35 years old.
The cabinet secretary also noted that corporations could help young graduates boost their skills by providing internships, apprenticeships, on-the-job training and mentoring.
Maria-Threase Keating, the UNDP country director, urged the private sector to create inclusive business models that contribute to the empowerment and employability of Kenya’s youth. She cited two inclusive businesses – Centurion Systems, Ltd. and Digital Divide Data – both of which joined the Business Call to Action in 2014 with commitments to provide skills training and employment opportunities for low-income youth.
Kenyan technology firm Centurion Systems Limited committed to increasing the employability of 465 low-income youth with industry-relevant skills training and apprenticeship programs by 2017. The company will also integrate a life skills and employability module into its existing technical training programmes to ensure a comprehensive, demand-based and practical training course designed to build capacity and entrepreneurship skills. To help accomplish its goals, the company will train 110 lecturers across various industries including food and beverage, industrial automation and motion control.
Digital Divide Data, an internationally acclaimed social enterprise that delivers high-quality business process outsourcing (BPO) services to clients worldwide, is providing motivated low-income youth with skills training, followed by employment opportunities for successful graduates. By 2018, the company plans to employ 600 youth from poor families living in the slums of Nairobi. In addition, the company is committed to ensuring that 300 of its work-study graduates receive college degrees, work experience and have secured professional jobs by 2018.
The event was supported by funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the UK Department for International Development, the US Agency for International Development, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the United Nations Global Compact.
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