Economists will tell you that a large youthful population is essentially an
economic blessing. But official figures assembled by the World Bank paint a grim picture of desperation.
Africa is home to at least 200 million youths. In Kenya alone, the youth make up 75 percent of the county’s total population. But despite these lovely
numbers, it is hard to be optimistic about Africa’s future.
Currently, forty million young Africans are not at work. Another fifty
three million aged between 15 – 24 are in wobbly jobs, which means
that they often require a miracle to survive.
For the longest time, young people in most African nations have had a raw deal in the labor markets. What follows colorful graduation parties is a face-to-face meeting with the uncomfortable realities of unemployment – savagely shuttering down their dreams of the good life & economic prosperity.
But instead of painting themselves as victims of prejudice, some – including yours truly; opt to pursue entrepreneurship where they find out that business is like a religion and only the staunch believers see the light.
The social-economic cost of frustrated youth can be high considering that they are expected to be the dominant workforce over the next decade. The situation has further been exacerbated by two pressing issues.
The most obvious one is a demographic boom whereby tertiary institutions are now producing more graduates than the available job opportunities. Secondly, there is a glaring mismatch between the skills that young Africans are offering and the ones that employers or that a particular business needs.
There is also scant proof that unsound economic policies and poorly
run labor markets in emerging economies like Kenya have resulted in a jobless generation. Nonetheless, no single government can tackle youth unemployment alone. Thankfully, some notable private corporations are more than willing to lend a helping hand.
For instance, Coca-Cola East Africa’s pet project dubbed Kuza Kazi initiative is seeking to absorb at least 50,000 youths across the country into its massive distribution network.
The beneficiaries will first receive a starter kit consisting of an icebox,
a parasol, products (soft drinks, water or juices) and branding materials that will be costed as an initial investment into their distribution startup.
They will then operate under the direct supervision of Coca-Cola and its partners who include PWC and USAID. They will also receive entrepreneurship skills, mentorship sessions, and capacity building
lessons to prop up their enterprises.
In 2010, the beverage maker masterminded a program dubbed 5by20
where it sought to empower up to 5 million industrious women with entrepreneurship skills. So far 557,000 women in Kenya have benefited.
- A financial lift has seen fortunes change for this Kilifi Women Group
- Inside WEF and Coca-Cola’s plan to empower women in Kenya.
Telco giant Safaricom and Absa Bank are also some of the organizations running structured programmes that seek to empower the youth while also helping them access trade and employment opportunities.
Mr. Daryl Wilson, General Manager, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, Kenya says that unemployment is a serious menace that will require a more collaborative approach to tackle.
“Unemployment is a very serious concern that requires the input of
both private and public sectors in the country that is why it is important to join hands with key partners to look for a solution inline with our Sustainability Agenda,” he said.
Wilson’s sentiments underscore the importance of corporations to adopt sustainable practices to tackle the unemployment issue, paving way for much more profound solutions. A failure to employ the youth not only lowers growth today. It also threatens it tomorrow.
He was speaking during the launch of the Kuza Kazi initiative in Kericho County early last year. Other regions where the beverage maker has launched this initiative include Kwale, Migori and Kisii Counties.