Africa has the youngest population in the world, with over three fifths of the continent’s people falling under the quarter century age bracket. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics survey suggests, of seven million Kenyans, 70 percent of them youths, are jobless. Furthermore, the World Bank states that young people are prone to work longer hours under insecure work arrangements, depicted by low productivity and trifling earnings. Kenya’s Vision 2030 sets an aspiring objective to become a middle-income country. This goal requires residents with globally-competitive skills as well as an uninterrupted growth of 10 percent per year. In efforts to get the conversation started among the nation’s youth and derive solutions to this issue, the Youth Engagement Society (YES) partnered with Strathmore University to host the 2nd annual Kenya Youth Summit held at the Strathmore University Business School on the 13th and 14th August 2019.
This year’s theme was education and the future of jobs. The youth summit facilitated this significant, relevant topic by bringing together graduates, leaders of organizations, young professionals and entrepreneurs in the hope of working together across sectors to not only inspire the youth but tap into them for solutions.
The three main objectives of the event were: interact with and leverage millennials for solutions to local and global issues, inspire and better inform youth to pursue dreams and lives of achieved ambitions, and empower today’s university students through connections with successful role models by providing resources and opportunities to network, discuss and interact with leaders and young professionals from various settings and careers.
World Bank public sector specialist and co-founder of YES, Dr. David Wachira, said the organization chose this year’s theme because they were aware of the unemployment debacle among our nation’s millennials. Graduates enter the job market with the hope of getting formal employment; however, they are not aware of the fact that only one out of five of them stands a chance. “We hope to help transform education so that students leave higher learning institutions in the best position possible to land a job,” Dr Wachira said.
Undergraduate students, young entrepreneurs and other attendees of the seminar got the opportunity to network and interact with the moderators and panellists through various captivating activities such as speed-dating mentoring sittings and one-on-one sessions. Education specialist Grace Murugwa said the summit did not have the traditional structure whereby a speaker comes and addresses the audience only for everyone to leave straight after. “We tried to make it as interactive and attractive as humanly possible, whereby one could engage different speakers and discuss any challenges they faced or expound on a topic discussed.” Texas A&M University Assistant Dr. Elizabeth Wachira further added that the sessions were intentionally tailored to create a space which promoted interaction among individuals and discussions that young people cared about in various ways. “The participation was brilliant, and the moderators did a fantastic job in making it a conversation which was adaptive in what came out. The panellists brought heaps of relevant, useful information, insight and experience. It was also good to see youth represented in the panels and individuals that support the growth of today’s younger generation on various platforms,” Dr. Wachira said.
The education system was brought up as a major challenge during this event, a notion shared by a majority of the speakers. Academic institutions have largely been blamed for producing half-baked individuals who cannot fit in the present-day advanced job market. Moreover, the rate of skilled workers is not growing as fast as the amount of jobs. Horti Grid Limited Founder Patricia Lagat believed entitlement was another major challenge the youth were facing. She said students and recent graduates should realise they are not independent of the eco system. “We live in a country where opportunities are scarce, and we need more solution makers than opportunity seekers. As a young person, drop your entitlement and go in to the job market asking what you can do for them and not what can they do for you,” Ms Lagat remarked. She further gave advice to those dealing with entitled ones, telling them to handle them with care, mentor them and let them learn the ropes of the trade. This would make them realise it is not as easy as they thought it to be.
Overall, it was a good experience with the attendees all having expressions of gratitude at the end of the event. Strathmore University student Tanya Mbwari said the most important lesson she got from the event was to chase opportunities. This was echoed further by Ms Murugwa who challenged the youth not to be afraid of failure.
This article was written by Stephen Mariru
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