How we can tackle the high levels of youth unemployment

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The rate of unemployment in Kenya went from 12.7% between 2004 and 2007, to a whopping 40% between 2010 and 2013. Those that are employed mostly fall into the minimum wage category, with youth earning as little as 7000shs monthly and lower. Indeed, Kenyans are grappling with lack jobs and the few who do get these jobs are still unable to sustain themselves, considering the rate of inflation.

Given the fact that jobs are not readily available at some point we have to realize that constantly being stuck in the get-a-job mentality is not the answer. As such the youth have to think of alternatives other than white collar jobs, here are a few examples;

Become an entrepreneur

Starting your own business requires courage and determination, and it will definitely get an unemployed person out of an otherwise desperate situation. Not only do you get a chance to be your own boss but also an employer.

It all starts with an idea. Having an entrepreneurship mentality would require you to identify a gap in the market, and finding a way to fill it. This would be followed by conducting thorough research, developing a strategic plan, then finding means of funding and/or partnerships.

Funding a startup can be done through taking loans from friends and family or convincing investors to support the business. You can also take advantage of funding programmes like the Youth Enterprise Development fund and Uwezo fund. These are initiatives put in place by the government to allow youth get access to capital in order to enable them start their own businesses. You can also take part in the various entrepreneurship challenges like the Total Startupper challenge where you get the chance to win funding for your business.

A good example of a Kenyan who started their own business and excelled is Trushar Khetia a 28year old founder of Tria Group. Tria Group is an outdoor advertising firm that uses public transit vehicles to market leading consumer goods in Kenya. The business- which was founded in 2013 places advertisement on more than 200 buses in Nairobi for clients such as Unilever, Google, HP, Dell and Konica Minolta. The company has annual revenues exceeding 1.3 million dollars. Khetia is also the founder of Society Stores, one of the most popular supermarkets in Thika. The four-storey retail outlet is doing so well that Khetia is set to open two other stores before the end of this year. Combined, his two businesses earn more than 7 million dollars annually.

Investing in Agriculture

For the longest time, farming has been viewed as not being cool and a preserve of the upcountry folks. Yet farming is one of the most lucrative ventures worldwide given the huge plantations owned by multi-nationals like Unilever, Del-Monte among others. Of late there are many instances of the youth engaging in farming which is quite encouraging. A farmer is quite capable of sustaining himself and his family as well as play a crucial role in feeding the nation.

There are various options to consider if one decides to go down this route such as dairy farming, fish farming and greenhouse farming among others. Partaking in a form of sustainable agriculture including the rearing of animals and growing of crops will allow you to put money in your pocket and food on your table. Agriculture takes a very important part in Kenya’s economy, as Kenya exports lots of agricultural products to the international market too. More than 75 percent of Kenyans make some part of their living in agriculture, and the sector accounts for more than a fourth of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The thing will agriculture is that food is a basic need for all humans as such one will never lack a market for their produce. However you need to know what to plant and when to avoid instances of a market glut which leads to low prices.

Government tenders

“Tendering is the process of making an offer, bid or proposal, or expressing interest in response to an invitation or request for tender. Organisations will seek other businesses to respond to a particular need, such as the supply of goods and services, and will select an offer or tender that meets their needs and provides the best value for money” (by Small Business Tool Kit).

As the government buys many goods and services from the private sector, this is a great opportunity to make money. The Kenyan government provides many opportunities to tender for a wide range of goods and services as well as for major contracts on projects. You can visit the Government of Kenya’s Official Tender’s website to learn more about available tenders and get more information.

The government has actually set aside 30% of all government tenders for the youth, women and persons with disabilities. This amounts to billions of shillings so it would be wise to take advantage of the opportunity. Register here in order to be eligible.

Utilize existing talents

We are all born with a talent or passion. For some it is writing, while for others it is photography, running among others, don’t take these for granted. Using your talent to earn a living is the surest way of achieving contentment at your work place as you get paid for something you enjoy doing.

When one thinks of individuals who use their talents to earn a living what usually comes to mind is our award winning runners. However there are others who have been able to make a living off their talent. Take, for example the well-known human rights activist and photo- journalist Boniface Mwangi. He is the Project Director of Picha Mtaani. Swahili for ‘street exhibition’,  it is a youth-led peace initiative that primarily seeks to create space for young people to reconcile and become agents of reconciliation to their respective communities, especially after the 2007-2008 post-election violence witnessed across the country.

Picha Mtaani aims at providing a platform for national reflection and building local reconstruction consensus through photo exhibitions and conversation. Boniface has worked before as a photojournalist in certain media houses, but it is the work which he does as a freelancer that has seen him receive well deserved awards of recognition such as CNN Multichoice Africa Photojournalist of the Year. Not only has Boniface Mwangi used his talent to make a positive impact in the society, but he also shows that using your talent can indeed lead you to become successful.

Blogging is another example of a career that is  founded off of one’s talents and in-built skills. The last couple of years have seen the rise of blogging in Kenya, with many talented writers sharing their opinion, stories and experiences with their readers. Being able to make money blogging actually takes hard work to pull off. It involves consistently producing valuable, informative and well researched content which can attract and retain readers. Once you are able to get the numbers then the money will come in form of advertising by companies who want to reach out to your readers.

Volunteering.

If you are passionate about certain issues in the society, volunteering would be a good place to start. Not only does it build your character, but it also allows you to learn many new things. Offering your services for free will also keep your skills sharp and allow you to network, grow and find your niche. Volunteering will also help to fill the gaps in your résumé with positive activities and experience.

Photo credit: USAID

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