By Gitungo Wamere
Some of us who experienced the presidency of Mwai Kibaki as teenagers will remember him for making university education accessible to us. Today, there are more graduates in Kenya because Kibaki made it his business to expand higher education.
However, as the number of Universities, middle level and technical institutions increased the number of jobless youth increased in a similar proportion. Today, Kenya has the highest number of Jobless youth in East Africa region. Some of my peers whom I graduated with in 2015, have never found any meaningful employment for instance. This is dangerous; selling hope to youth then delivering despair.
The youth of Kenya are increasingly becoming angry and forlorn. As time goes by they are convinced that the system is not designed for them. Nothing buttresses this point like the presidential appointments which always prove that the public service is either a recycler of incompetent individuals, a dustbin of retirees or worst still a tool for the president to exercise patronage and clientelism.
Numbers don’t lie, A National Manpower Survey report released in 2014 revealed that young people between the age of 18-29 consisted only a paltry 25% in the public service.
In 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta campaigned on the platform of youthfulness. His message and style gave some of us ‘first time voters’ hope and the possibility of shaking things up. So far, he’s done nothing on this front and risks denting his legacy. As he prioritizes on his four main agendas during his last term, he needs to ponder on what he wants the youth to remember him for.
Manufacturing which is one of the main four agendas of President Kenyatta, can be a silver bullet to the problem of unemployment. All nations which are developed today can credit manufacturing as the major catalyst of development and economic stability.
First, a good starting point is by trying to harmonize the technical institute education with the manufacturing agenda. Technical institutes are well spread in Kenya but their potential is yet to be tapped.
Secondly, if one would travel across Kenya, they can write voluminous reports on hundreds of factories that were neglected and left out to die. To revive these industries, the technical institutes can be structured in such a way that they offer contextual knowledge. If an area is good in coffee farming, we can let technical institutes in that area dwell with coffee, from production to processing the final product. Unfortunately, the coffee, tea, pyrethrum and sisal sector continues to dwindle.
Thirdly, our education system needs to be more in sync with our present realities. Our universities and technical institutes should offer start-up capital to students and incubate their companies and industries. Our government should also offer incentives to leaders of industry that partner with tertiary colleges and universities in the research and development work of their companies.
Kenya has a great potential in agriculture and if the government resolves to reviving industries in this sector it can employ hundreds of thousands. There is no point for Kenya exporting raw materials rather than finished products.
If Kenyatta, makes sure that every county has an industry in what they do best, this will go ahead in balancing the trade imbalance between us and other countries. In future, the standard gauge railway may not be majorly used to transport imports but transport exports – processed goods from various parts of Kenya.
Even the National Youth Service where public funds dedicated to the youth get lost in ridiculous procurements. The service can be reformed to be in line with the manufacturing agenda. I am not convinced why the National Youth Service should procure cereals, milk, meat and bread. It is the National Youth Service that should have farms and supply these food products. Finally, time is nigh and Kenyatta ought to seriously focus on his legacy.