Why we need to look at youth empowerment

An appeal for medical aid, addressing disasters and raising money for some social function has leapfrogged from the Harambee days to the palms of our phones.

At any given time some Kenyans are members of up to five Whatsapp groups in which they are contributing to some course. The wide net of mobilization and the rate at which these groups are coming up is telling of something bigger.

But while the level of social mobilization in Kenya will shock any outsiders because not only have we become so dynamic in using M-Pesa, but we have intertwined the mobile penetration with safety nets.

Essentially the need for safety nets crops up because only 12 percent of Kenyans are subscribed to insurance programmes, according to a survey by online health service provider Daktari Africa.

Of these, the majority are the employed (56.8 percent) of the 6.8 million in 2016/17 coming from NSSF taking up.

So there is a huge need for not only creation of half a million jobs each year but also affordable innovative safety nets like M-TIBA, a simple and powerful tool for healthcare savings, payments, and bonus schemes.

For instance, then innovative mobile-based e-wallet that allows users to save, receive donations and settle hospital bills may revolutionize the health insurance industry as it expands across the country.

This means that one employed person can pay token sums to his parents at home via the mobile health wallet M-TIBA, developed by CarePay, PharmAccess, and Safaricom which has been rolled out beyond Nairobi.

This will enable even the young people going into employment and paid below Sh50,000 a month according to the Institute of Economic Affairs and the ability to contribute the minimum figure.

Youth unemployment in Kenya rose to 22.2 percent, according to the United Nations Human Development while the US-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB), had a moderate figure which put joblessness among those aged between 15 and 24 years at 20.3 percent.

Safaricom Foundation has selected economic empowerment among its three key focus areas alongside health and education in the next three years

The foundation is set to focus on supporting youth entrepreneurship in a manner that addresses the 5 constraints among them lack of access to start up financing, lack of managerial and entrepreneurial skills, lack of relevant exposure and networks for starting and growing a business.

The foundation will also seek to help increase access to apprenticeships, especially among those successful ones that have been similarly started by young people.

The other key constraint is the limited information and capacity to take advantage of available youth-focused government funds that focus on youth such as the Youth Enterprise Development, UWEZO and Women Enterprise Funds as AGPO.

So while we address the problem of unemployment, it should go hand in hand with a focus on how the small wealth the youth create is not just depleted because either they or their family members have become sick.

Young people who make up the 12 million Kenyans aged between 20-34 years are vulnerable to financial shock and are likely to go completely broke if they were tofall sick if they are not already broke.

Heightened lifestyle diseases have even made the situation worse as the number of cancer cases has become so common yet they require specialized treatment, which is at best expensive.

With the population expected to double in the next decade, the issue ability of the youth to access gainful employment and fund their health care needs should be at the center of the conversation.

Policymakers understand this and that is why there has been significant calls to rope in the informal sector into a bandwagon.

Safaricom Foundation
Kenya’s current population is over 47.5 million and growing, based on the latest United Nations estimates

While state jobs and manufacturing jobs have stagnated over the decade, the number of young people seeking to make a living is growing boldly.

According to IEA, of the 15.2 million in jobs recorded in 2015 almost 12.56 million were in the informal sector.

In fact in terms of NHIF contributions last year, the informal sector registered a growth of 17.0 percent compared to a 7.0 percent growth in the formal sector.

This conversation should go beyond state boardrooms to really asses the fact that interventions in job creation go hand in hand with a solution rather than relying on your WhatsApp social capital the next time you are down with a bout of malaria.

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