Youth Unemployment: Kenyan intervention
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Of late, I have been deeply interested in two fundamental development issues in my country; one of them is the commitment of my government to addressing youth unemployment and the other is in conventional development approaches, especially on their effectiveness and whether there is need for us to shift to other more innovative models like say, cash transfer or social entrepreneurship.
A policy analyst who I respect a lot named Kwame Owino once said that our government had a lazy intervention model to pressing social challenges; he called it the “throw money at every policy problem fallacy”. He made this comment reacting to a bill tabled in parliament that would have seen unemployed university graduates getting 15,000 KES (around 210 USD) a month in unemployment benefits. His argument was that we were not economically capable to foot such a bill and that we needed more innovative intervention mechanisms.
His remarks moved me; he made me curious and deeply interested in examining existing employment creation programs in the country. I realized that Kenya actually has a number of them running, and that the government is very keen on promoting entrepreneurship as an alternative option. While I am personally a proponent of public works programmes, I really commend the government for this. At the moment we have two funds set aside to provide unsecured and interest free loans to young people; one is called the Youth Enterprise development fund, while the other is called the Uwezo (Swahili for ability) fund. Mr. Kwame however feels giving out interest free loans is a burden to the tax payers.
In terms of direct employment provision, we have a public works programme dubbed Kazi Kwa Vijana (Swahili for jobs for youth) which was sadly marred by extensive corruption. The programme was designed with a view of engaging local jobless and mostly unskilled youth with tasks like tree planting and community cleaning. This promised cleaner environments and more independent youth, it was really good while it lasted. On an almost similar level, we also have a PPP (Public Private Partnership) led programme dubbed Kenya youth empowerment project, which I really love. It is an annual programme under the patronage of KEPSA (the Kenya Private Sector Alliance), it provides employability training and internship placements to a select number of youth who have basic education and have been unemployed for more than 2 years. As far as I know it has been successful so far and if it keeps going on, it will be a large contributor to the reduction of the large unemployment numbers in the country.