With all of the very disappointing news that has happened in the past month globally, I thought I'd write about a topic that is something to cheer: 2016 is shaping up to be a turning point for youth employment in Kenya.
Our friends at Caribou Digital recently shared two newsletter items which caught my attention: One which spotlights youth employment trends in East Africa and another which highlights the Kenyan government's push to roll out last mile connectivity in all 290 constituencies.
As a brief summary, the MasterCard Foundation (MCF) report "...found that young people in East Africa are optimistic about developing their skills, pursuing self-employment and are eager to participate in the policy decisions that impact their lives." The Constituency Innovation Hubs project in Kenya will provide WiFi access at a nominal cost so that youth, among others, can access the internet. The costs paid for access will be used to sustain the Innovation Hubs over time.
So why do these two stories demonstrate the turning point I allude to?
1. The attitudes that youth themselves have about their own future.
The youth interviewed in the MCF report stated that they have a positive outlook on their future. The report noted that youth want to play an increasingly active, participatory, and informed part in shaping initiatives designed to enhance their well-being. This is because despite barriers they might face, they hold hope that their lives can change for the better if they have opportunities to develop skills they value - and they believe these opportunities are forthcoming.
The sum of these findings is perhaps the single most important indicator that 2016 is indeed a turning point for youth employment in Kenya. Hope is a psychological resource that is a key yet often overlooked ingredient in human development interventions. It is therefore timely that the MCF report underscores its relevance in 2016 and its application by youth in East Africa. The report also yields evidence that hope can act as a mechanism of encouragement for Kenyan youth as they seek or create employment.
2. Government awareness that ICTs may enhance youth employment prospects in Kenya.
The Government of Kenya (GoK) has been a leader in ICT innovation for quite some time. In the past two years, the GoK has also prioritized youth employment in its Vision 2030 Development plan - and ICTs will play a prominent role in helping youth to realize their employment-related aspirations.The Constituency Innovation Hubs project emphasizes how youth can take advantage of affordable internet access to participate in skills development opportunities, whether in a rural or urban location.
This initiative signals that the GoK views the internet as a tool for human development which could positively impact youth employment prospects. Government recognition of how ICTs can help support youth employment is crucial if innovation in this area is to be realized. One reason for this is because governments can deploy the necessary infrastructure to make ICT use possible for these purposes. The steps the GoK is taking to commingle youth employment and ICTs demonstrates their belief that the digital dividends already paid in the country might be further extended to another area of national importance.
So, will 2016 turn out to be a turning point for youth employment in Kenya? Feel free to share other reasons you think are relevant in the comments. I plan to examine this later on in the year as the national roll out for this project begins and more data on the impact is made available.