‘The leaders of this country say that we, children
and young people, we are the leaders of tomorrow, but tomorrow
It is never now. It’s time for young people to change
tomorrow for today.’
Fragment of a leader of a group of young people from Kiserian, Kenya. March 2, 2014
According to an Oxfam NGO newsletter entitled «Youth and Inequality», the world’s youth population is bigger than ever: there are 1.8 million people between 10 and 24 years old in the world. This article points out that Africa is the continent with the highest percentage of young people and, in this sense, we have to point out that Kenya, the country where we work, has a youth unemployment rate of around 40%, according to government data.
In KUBUKA we have been supporting projects related to education and entrepreneurship for several years to achieve sustainable development in vulnerable communities such as those living in Kibera slum (suburb) of Nairobi (Kenya) and others located in Zambia.
Therefore, through this blog we want to emphasize the labour reality that young people in Kenya and, in particular, in Kibera have, through their own experiences.
Eric Karioki is a truck driver at Kleanbera Recycling, one of the entrepreneurship projects he supports in Kibera. He is 24 years old and lives with his wife and children in Kibera where he was born and raised. He studied up to the 4th year of secondary school (equivalent to the 2nd year of Bachillerato), but from that point, he needed to get money for himself and that is why he left school and decided to get his driver’s license.
He got the license four years ago but has never had a contract and it was not until recently when he was able to drive a truck. According to what he tells us, he used to drive «Matatus» (bus) and «TucTucs» in the area of Makina in Kibera: «My goal was to get 1600 ksh that pays the owner every day, the remainder of what you earn is your wage, so He had to start working from 4 in the morning until 11 at night to get about 800 ksh (€ 6.00) and be able to face my responsibilities. «
The reality is that «in Kibera it is tough to find a stable job, most of the people who have businesses hire their relatives», explains Eric. This is why many young people remain unemployed in the streets, they only have two alternatives: getting unregular work by downloading the tool or helping with construction, etc., or working outside the slum, which is not always easy. For this reason, many young people choose to get involved in criminal activities to look for money.
Regarding his future, Eric has no doubt: «I see myself working very hard, I have no capital or savings to think about any other plan, especially I think about the present. What I’m sure of is that I want to have a better life and stop having to fight so much every day.” Eric dreams of becoming a salesman with his own business, be the owner of a» Matatu «(bus) and get all the benefits.
We have also spoken with KEN, one of the first local KUBUKA volunteers in Kenya. He is a technical engineer on charter flights at Wilson Airport in Nairobi and he is 26 years old. He earns about 15,000 ksh after taxes (about 120 euros) although, according to what we have, the average salary in Kenya is between 20,000 and 30,000 ksh for someone with higher education or experience in a qualified job.
He tells us that he finished his technical engineering diploma in 2013 after almost four years studying. Finally, last year, he found work «although it was not easy, everything depends on the contacts and the luck you have. In fact, many of my colleagues have decided to change course and work in other sectors, after years without finding a job, they have surrendered» says Ken.
This is a perfect example of how difficult it is to build a future in Kenya despite having higher education. As he explains, «there are many more people trained than the local market can absorb. Besides, companies are not interested in signing long-term contracts, they prefer to look for a job every day to be able to lay off or reduce staff whenever they want.»
In Kenya, the rate of university students does not reach 25%. Every year, there are between 40,000 and 80,000 graduates battling for a qualified job, of which only 10% get it. («The frustration of youth in the ghetto» article from El Mundo).
Also, Ken recognizes that within Kibera the opportunities are even smaller. «I have never met anyone with a fixed contract. The best opportunities within the «slum» are for those who decide to undertake. You just need to come up with an attractive business idea for the masses, if you give it to it the clientele is assured» he says.
In 2015, Ken tried to open a bar in a Nairobi neighbourhood but had to close it after a year of losses due to corruption. We ask him how he looks in the future and he tells us that he would like to get an engineer’s license and start a business. «The license would open the doors for me to work in the maintenance of certified airlines. In addition, to survive in this country you need to look for a second source of income in addition to your job, so I want to try again to open a business, maybe try my own garage of cars, «he explains.
What is the primary cause of youth unemployment?
Ken points out corruption and nepotism: “ children from more wealthy and powerful circles are those who inherit those jobs and therefore the great fortunes and opportunities always remain among the same people and families.» Eric is of the same opinion, «The leaders of the country work for themselves and never care about people; they deceive us. They have built a great wall for poor people and do not allow us access to any good opportunity. Corruption is the main problem. «
What can the Government do to improve this situation?
According to Ken, «to encourage employment the first thing that the government should do is fight against corruption and generate more public employment, and should also support international investors and bet on initiatives that fight for workers’ rights such as pensions, salaries minimums, etc. «
Edwin Odeny Odhiambo, director of the Ong Kenya Youth Foundation, comments in this regard that youth and vulnerable groups should be able to have some voice and vote on employment policies.
Eric believes that the government should promote self-employment because it does not have the capacity to create enough public employment for all. He also emphasizes that it should support more international organizations such as KUBUKA to create more jobs.
In conclusion, we find that in Kenya, and specifically in Kibera, the possibility of finding a minimally stable job for young people (even with university training) is practically non-existent. Most of the youth have temporary jobs that last a day or a few hours, which entails the impossibility of saving and planning their future. This situation is uncertain for those who live as a hopeless at the social level.
Álvaro Pérez Fernández, KUBUKA volunteer in Kenya
Myriam Estarrona, KUBUKA project coordinator in Kenya