Kenya faces a significant unemployment problem with youth being hit hardest. Young people dominate the Kenyan labour market. Youth aged 15 to 34 constitute two thirds of the workforce. Some 800,000 young Kenyans enter the labour market every year. Unemployment in Kenya is mainly a youth problem. While unemployment figures vary in Kenya depending on the source, definition and calculation method, all sources clearly show a much higher unemployment rate among youth compared to the adult population. The high unemployment is related to the overall investment climate in the country and the economy’s low capacity to create new jobs. But youth find it particularly difficult to enter the labour market. Reasons for this are complex. They range from deficits in education and skills to lack of work experience, difficulties to obtain information about career options and job chances, irrational recruitment practices of employers, and the lack of necessary assets and attitudes to become self-employed. In view of the very limited chances of youth to secure wage employment in the formal sector, support to self-employment and micro- business development features high in the youth employment promotion environment in Kenya.
The Mayouth Tujiajiri Tujitegemee MA2T Initiative is an innovative program by Teestep Kenya Limited a human resources company based in Nairobi, Kenya whose aim is to instill entrepreneurial spirit among the young people as an alternative to formal employment as a way of mitigating both youth unemployment and social affliction. This is upon realization that youth employment is a multi- sectoral issue which cuts across individual sectors of training, employment, MSE and business sector development. The program aims to revitalize youth unemployment, restore a culture of self reliance and stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit among the young people whose overall impact will be felt in the wider economy. The program is designed to reach out to the young people by bridging the knowledge gap that exists about entrepreneurship as well as leasing business assets to enable them venture and explore the business world and gain practical skills and experience of running a successful business, realize their full potential,develop self reliance as well as raise start up capital for their upkeep and businesses through a ‘learn by doing model’.
We believe supporting entrepreneurship amongst the youth is essential and needs better targeting. There is clear evidence that micro-businesses not only create jobs, but are also a viable option for youth, particularly as they grow older. More than one third of all household enterprises are run by young people, with the highest share in the age group of 23-34. All available evidence points to the fact that lack of access to finance is a binding constraint for self-employment creation, not only but especially among the youth and more pronounced among the youth from poor households. Government plans to scale up and streamline credit schemes such as the youth enterprise development fund and the Uwezo fund for youth entrepreneurship therefore point to the right direction. However, funding alone is not sufficient in most cases and the collateral required to secure the funding is more than often irrational. Credit interventions need to be wrapped with other support, in particular solid entrepreneurship and business training, facilitation of market linkages and intensive follow-up and mentorship. This is what the MA2T initiative is all about being run by an organization with special knowledge of local youth and labour market conditions.
This also points to the urgent need to address insufficient entrepreneurship attitudes in Kenya. Entrepreneurial attitudes appear to be the single most important factor for business success in Kenya. Attitudes in this context refer to personal traits such as persistence and patience, risk taking, the ability to identify economic opportunities and the preparedness to subordinate social obligations and personal interests to longterm business goals. In fact, attitudes favourable to business success occur more frequently among some population groups in Kenya, and less among others, according to widespread perceptions. A key determinant for the successful formation of entrepreneurial attitudes,according to these perceptions, is the existence of positive role models in the family or the immediate social environment. The MA2T program provides exposure to these youngpreneurs with relevant mentors and role models to instill entrepreneurial stint among them and encourage persistence and resilience in realizing their full potential.
In a similar way information gaps pose challenges to effective youth entrepreneurial and employment policies. Critical knowledge gaps exist specially regarding entrepreneurial opportunities and gains. A particular problem is in the various different options in existence for penetrating the business arena. The MA2T initiative in collaboration with Teehub Kenya (www.teehub.co.ke) will launch an online resource center rich in youth related opportunities and entrepreneurial information.
We believe the social and economic returns of investing in Kenyan youth are presumably vast. The economic marginalization of youth is considered a major driver of social instability and increase of crime, mainly in urban but increasingly also in rural areas. Fully integrating young people into
the development process would enable Kenya to realize the demographic dividend arising from its youthful population, which would foster increased competitiveness of the economy and poverty reduction. What the program offers is a realization that lasting positive change can only be achieved when every member of the society is actively involved in supporting young people reach their full potential amid the prevailing youth unemployment crisis in the country. Through the youth, we are investing in a better future for all. Join us today in empowering the future, login to www.teestep.co.ke/ma2t_initiative/ma2t.html
Githuto Mutahiis the Managing Partner and a Senior Human Resources consultant at Teestep Kenya Limited(www.teestep.co.ke). A leading human resource company based in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, that offers an array of HR service ranging from HR consultancy, Recruitment and staffing, Payroll services, Temporary staffing, Interview training, CV writing among others.