Why Kenya Must Create a Million New Jobs Annually

Nairobi – It is estimated that 3000 Kenyans are born every day, a million a year. With a median age of 18 years, Kenya is witnessing a massive youth bulge, which could either be a demographic dividend, or a disaster. Consider this. In 1956, Kenya’s population stood at about 7 million, twice that of Norway.

Today, Norway has a population of 5.2 million while that of Kenya stands at about 45 million. It is projected that by 2030, the population of Norway will be 6 million while Kenya’s population will reach 65 million, and 85 million by 2050.

Africa’s youth bulge, and Kenya’s in particular, should largely be the basis for optimism offering great opportunity for socio-economic take-off. Six of the countries with the highest economic growth rates are in Africa.

Yet, for most countries, Kenya included, economic growth lacks the desired social transformation. Despite Kenya’s impressive economic growth, four out of ten people live in extreme poverty; and the poorest 10 per cent of the population receive only 2 per cent of the national income.

These statistics call for a reconsideration of the current emphasis on indicators such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure well-being.  At the just concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, speakers passionately urged nations to move the focus away from plain wealth creation and instead embrace a more inclusive development agenda.

A recent ECA report underscores the importance of ensuring that marginalized and excluded groups, including the youth, are integrated into the development and decision-making process so as to accelerate the transition towards a more sustainable and equitable development.

Today’s youth are key to any sustainable development strategies as enunciated by the SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth. However, soaring unemployment among the youth is a major problem across the region. The ECA report cites an estimated 10 to 12 million new people join the labour force each year in Africa, yet, the whole of Africa creates on average of merely 3.7 million jobs per year, of which only 28 per cent are wage-paying formal jobs.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, once remarked the crisis of mass youth unemployment… is a crisis so serious as to amount to a fundamentalexistential threat as well”.

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By Ambassador Victor Ronneberg and Siddharth Chatterjee

Credit picture: Tony Karumba/Getty Images