A recent report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, titled Africa Youth: Fulfilling the Potential, suggest that Kenyan youths sometimes also make themselves “unemployable”, worsening an already bad situation. FILE
- Jforce trains students to identify opportunities wherever they are and position themselves as distributors of commodities that are frequently bought by, say, their classmates. It is a marketing initiative, but it creates jobs, skills and experience.
- A recent report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, titled Africa Youth: Fulfilling the Potential, suggest that Kenyan youths sometimes also make themselves “unemployable”, worsening an already bad situation.
By Njeri Kihang’ah
If I don’t get a job, I might just smoke my life away,” 22-year-old Mark Rono says casually after his brief search for an internship yields nothing.
A procurement major, he has been hoping to get his career started before he completes university and joins other job-hunters.
The problem is that, as an entry-level jobseeker with no experience — not even as an intern — Rono, like his peers, wants a lot more than he is worth: a starting salary of Sh80,000.
For a long time now, youth unemployment has been one of the items on top of the list of critical development challenges. Both the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have often made that clear. However, in many places, little has being done to improve the situation.
A recent report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, titled Africa Youth: Fulfilling the Potential, suggest that Kenyan youths sometimes also make themselves “unemployable”, worsening an already bad situation.
The report cites employers saying that good candidates are too expensive, while the rest lack experience, job readiness, or education or technical skills. Rono’s demand for a minimum of Sh80,000 starting salary makes this argument valid.
Universities in Kenya release about 70,000 graduates into the job market every year. A large number of these graduates contribute to the 40 per cent unemployment rate cited by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. Some manage to join major corporations and get fancy job titles, but with little meaningful exposure to those positions. Only an enviable few get good placement with potential for growth.
The problem, however, begins much earlier than graduation, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation report suggests.
Unesco’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report supports this view when it states: “It is not possible to fix the jobs crisis without fixing the skills crisis. Linking schooling with work-based programmes through internships and apprenticeships has the potential to help young people learn practical problem-solving skills and practice crucial workplace skills. Apprenticeships have proved particularly successful in some contexts.”
The school-to-work transition is no small issue for graduates. The 2012 Mo Ibrahim Foundation study found that after prolonged unemployment, 61 per cent of the youths are willing to re-train.
Evelyn Mwangi is part of that statistic. She holds a degree in microbiology. She looked for a job for two years in vain, so she decided to enrol for a new course. Now she is studying interior design.
Those who do not retrain for lack of finances or other reasons end up being what ILO warned of: a “scarred” generation of young workers facing a dangerous mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity and precarious work in developed countries, as well as persistently high “working poverty”. ILO describes “working poverty” as a state in which the employed have incomes that fall below a given poverty line.
The resilient ones opt to capitalise on business ideas or beginning as trainees. A business model by Jumia Kenya, known as JForce, is particularly keen on supporting this aspect. Jumia Kenya, an online shopping store, trains and equips students to start their own retail businesses using their computers.
Jforce trains students to identify opportunities wherever they are and position themselves as distributors of commodities that are frequently bought by, say, their classmates. It is a marketing initiative, but it creates jobs, skills and experience.
“If students want to buy laptops, one can position themselves to be the supplier. The students will earn from every sale made and are not restricted to any product. They can choose what to sell from any category that their friends or networks are most interested in, from beauty products to fashion, or even exercise equipment,” explains Allan Matata, the head of Jforce Kenya.
Through the Jforce programme, full employment within Jumia’s sister companies is possible.
Nigeria has embraced the programme on a much bigger scale, and has about 700 members, Mr Matata says.
On a larger scale, websites like www.opportunitiesforafricans.com and www.opportunitiesforyouth.org continue to notify students of openings in internships, jobs, and training that they can pursue to gain skills, and in some instances, earn while at it.
Such platforms are a way to get a head start in a chosen career and get credited for participating in skill acquisition engagements that should hold any graduate in good stead for the positions they may vie for later.
Source: Daily nation 07/03/2014