Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged African leaders to prioritize creation of a conducive environment that will unlock the potential of the continent’s youth to enable them contribute effectively to development.
According to Africa Development Bank (AfDB) research, of Africa’s nearly 420 million youth aged 15-35, one-third are unemployed and discouraged, another third are vulnerably employed, and only one in six is in wage employment.
President Kenyatta said leaders should aim to equip the youth with the right educational tools to compete against their peers from across the globe and create a domestic environment for free enterprise to thrive that will lead to job creation.
“We must ingrain in our youth a sense of African pride so that they completely transform our approach as to how we exploit the vast wealth and riches of our African earth,” he said.
The President spoke Friday at the Strathmore Business School in Nairobi where he addressed the African Philanthropy Forum whose theme was “accelerating youth employment in Africa”.
Africa’s youth population is rapidly growing and expected to double to over 830 million by 2050.
If properly harnessed, this increase in the working age population could support increased productivity and stronger, more inclusive economic growth across the continent.
President Kenyatta said the current generation of young people has the potential of expanding Africa’s productive workforce, promoting entrepreneurship and becoming genuine instruments of change to reverse the devastation caused by climate change.
He emphasized that time has come for leaders to publicly declare that no young person will be left behind and that their voices matters the most.
“We can make these voices to be heard through education, empowering them with information, mentorship and skills enhancement,” the President said adding that accelerating investments in solutions for youth employment in Africa will be driven by all stakeholders working together.
“Together, we can build a new wave of positively engaged and well-equipped young African professionals who can help the region realize the potential for collective innovation and social impact,” he added.
While 10 to 12 million youth enter the workforce each year, only 3.1 million jobs are created, leaving vast numbers of youth unemployed.
The consequences of youth unemployment in Africa are pervasive and severe: unemployment translates to poorer living conditions, fuels migration out of Africa, and contributes to conflict on the continent itself.
The Head of State said the African Union’s roadmap on harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the youth presents opportunities for transforming Africa’s youth bulge into a demographic dividend.
At the forum attended by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and Public Service, Youth and Gender CS Margaret Kobia, the President said Kenya has made progress in building a strong platform to expand job opportunities for her young people.
He cited the assurance of 100 percent transition to secondary school for all pupils who successfully complete primary school and the access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) where 30% of government procurement opportunities have been set aside for enterprises owned by the youth, women and persons with disability as part of the progress made to empower the youth.
“In addition, we have made significant progress in creating an enabling environment for job creation. We have invested heavily in our transport infrastructure, energy and technology infrastructure,” President Kenyatta said.
The President said the government has undertaken major reforms in the education sector including making Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) more relevant and better aligned to the needs of the economy.
“We are building on these reforms to provide 21st century employability skills and demand driven training that is relevant to the labour market, and create pathways to work for graduates, including internships and apprenticeships,” he said.
In the area of ICTs, the President said the Ajira Digital Programme is helping technologically savvy Kenyan youth to take full advantage of the extensive technology platforms to create and connect to jobs, obtain accurate, relevant and timely labour market information as well as build a virtual support and mentorship ecosystem.
The Head of State said his administration has put in place robust mechanisms to support the survival, growth and productivity of Micro, Small and Medium Scale enterprises (MSMEs).
“It is only last week that I launched the “Stawi” programme which will provide financial support to MSMEs that previously had been locked out of the formal banking sector,” he said.
The founder and chairman of the African Philanthropy Forum (APF) Gbenga Oyebode said the organization believes in strategic and effective giving which aims at empowering the youth so as to create more job opportunities for them.