[Column] Bob Koigi: Why Kenya needs more farmers hands, not more suits
Kenya is sitting at the edge of a precipice while dancing with an avoidable time bomb. Data released by various institutions indicate that each year over 800,000 youths are ripe and qualified to join the job market, yet the market is already saturated and can only accommodate 50,000 of them.
A paltry 50,000. To put it in perspective, five out of ten qualified and trained Kenyans are unemployed. And therein lies the problem.
The situation is so dire that the World Bank has called it a ticking time bomb; a disaster waiting to happen. And the signs are now manifest, what with crime that is spiraling out of control and chiefly orchestrated by the unemployed youth.
Interesting enough though, study after study places Kenya as the preferred investment hub for serious investors, the bastion of regional economies. So what explains the disconnect between access to jobs and the enviable position of Kenya in the eyes of prospective investors?
For starters the deeply entrenched culture of white collar jobs as the only meaningful way of earning decent salaries has been the country’s greatest undoing.
There has been a cultivated culture among young people that anyone who doesn’t swing a black leather laptop suitcase every morning while donning the best designer suit and tie is not worth the money the parents spent on their education.
The ultimate effect has been a disgruntled, disenfranchised lot that would rather sit on stones all day than go anywhere near a factory or farm. After all it’s an insult to tell a degree holder to soil his hands. Or is it?
The Economic Survey places manufacturing and agriculture as among the biggest job creators, the two sectors which hold the promise of getting the county to the enviable mid-level economic status. This, industry players posit, is because the string of jobs in each stage of production is a long and never ending one, because the country is constantly producing.
Marklit EPZ Ltd an international company involved in welding and manufacture of metallic products recently put out ads for artisan jobs. One would expect that the responses would be swift and overwhelming, but that was not the case. Not even the promise of on-the-job trainings was enticement enough. And there are still over 5 million unemployed people?
Still such jobs are limited and the 5 million youths will never fit in these offices, so a mind shift would, for starters, be a welcome change for the country. No country anywhere in the world ever developed from a top down model. It starts with its people building its economies, upgrading its roads, fixing its communication networks, feeding its people, and who better to drive this than the youth, the crème of Kenya’s national pride and growth.
A country that cannot take care of its youth, philosophers say, has no business dreaming about a future, because it has already killed it. Take off doesn’t just happen, it has to be made to happen. Kenya and its youth need to invest in inspiring this take off.
Multiple award winning Kenyan journalist Bob Koigi is Chief Editor East Africa at Africa Business Communities