Dr Alex Awiti, Vice Provost at Aga Khan University East Africa, during a public lecture to mark Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi (AKUHN) 60th anniversary celebrations
The government needs to create robust policies to stimulate economic growth and create employment opportunities especially for the youth who account for 78% of the population below the age of 35 in Kenya.
During a public lecture at the Aga Khan University, Dr Alex Awiti, Vice Provost at Aga Khan University East Africa said that the country is not creating enough economic opportunities for the young generation bearing in mind that from a workforce and labour supply perspective, this is the perfect demographic structure for prosperity.
“In the last 15 years, the country has experienced the fastest economic growth prospects but during the same period, the country has also experienced low numbers of decent job opportunities for the youth, hence, the country is unable to tap into this demographic dividend,” said Dr Awiti.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, formal sector jobs grew from 2.03 million workers to 2.68 million between 2009 and 2016. In the same period informal sector workers grew from 8.68 million workers to 13.3 million workers. About 83 per cent of Kenya’s 15.9 million workforce is in the informal sector, where jobs are ephemeral, low paying and productivity is low.
Recent data from the Ministry of Education indicate that of the 1 million young people that qualify to join the job market from universities and colleges every year, only one out of five is likely to get a job in the formal sector.
“We have a youthful generation who are currently the best educated in the history of this country and the region. It’s incumbent upon the government and the private sector to collaborate and develop policies and technological innovations that will spur the economic growth of the country for the youth,” added Dr Awiti.
Some of the recommendations highlighted was the need to channel resources in the areas that affect the youth the most such as investment in the areas of education, health, security, water and sanitation services.
“Kenya’s industrial revolution must be on the precincts of the fourth industrial revolution. The country needs to leverage and tap into the digital opportunity available in the social sectors such as education, health, security, water and sanitation which should be given the highest priority because this is where the country will reap the greatest dividend,” he added.
Dr Awiti also underscored the important role of manufacturing in the economic growth and transformation of a country.
“Manufacturing is the greatest catalyst for the economic transformation of a nation and the government should pay closer attention to this sector that has been on the decline in the last decade. Considering that the country has been de-manufacturing, if we can turn-around this sector and steer it on the right path, we can be able to turn the large youthful population into a healthy, educated, skilled and economically empowered workforce.”
The public lecture was organized by the Aga Khan University Medical College and School of Nursing and Midwifery, East Africa as part of the 60th anniversary of the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi (AKUHN). The public lecture series have been running from October 2019 to February 2020.