IKUNDA: Kenya must deal with the unemployment crisis now!
By Harrison Ikunda Mwirigi
One conversation I like hearing is on how we can create the much needed jobs in our economy. As a person who regularly travels within and out of the country, I meet many diverse people and what at times I see in various urban centres and rural areas can be disheartening. When you see hordes of youth passing time seated under a shade, outside a building or at bus stops doing nothing to improve their lives, it is a sign of problems. When you see so many young girls and middle aged women who have nothing else they can do but try to solicit clients for sex, it is a sign of danger.
Every time I pass in some sections of the city, I see so many idle men and the ever increasing army of street children. This is a sign of a troubled society. Any decent economy must be able to preserve existing jobs and to innovatively and creatively produce new ones. That is how growth and development is achieved. Decent economies also get retirees enjoying their twilight years in comfort and with sufficient safety nets. Decent economies have ability to keep so many people employed that have ageing population happily working to retirement.
In Kenya today, we have many people who have gotten to middle age crisis without having had a decent job for long nor have sufficient incomes to make their old age any better. Worse still there is a growing youth unemployment crisis. I don’t subscribe to a notion of retrenching or retiring those nearing retirement so that you can employ the young. This is a self-defeatist attitude and shows a stuck economy. It is an indication of an economy under siege. When you see mature companies closing down or retrenching en-mass as has happened and still happening in Kenya, it should alarm to those who wish this country well. Presently, Kenya is facing an unemployment crisis.
The unemployment crisis inevitably leads to moral and social collapse and it’s a big political risk. The future of a nation cannot be guaranteed in a situation where so many people are either already in depressed mood for deferred or destroyed dreams. That is why it is becoming fashionable for so many young people or even some of middle age joining illicit groups like Al Shabaab. They find it better to risk for an illusory promise than nothing. That is why we should all fight tooth and nail to stem this by creating opportunities here.
The challenge is that some of the messes we are in have been created by perpetuated corruption and tribalism, two ills that have destroyed the Kenyan dream. The unfortunate thing is that these two ills are increasingly difficult to eradicate due to their stranglehold on the body politics of Kenya. You make a move on them and you hear war cries coming from the affected corners. It would only take plenty of courage and risks to get over this malady. Methinks it will require either a last term President taking a huge risk to the extent of alienating some constituency or a President just seeking a first term to deal with these evil ruthlessly. The problem with Kenya is that even the people being governed have entrenched habits and cultures that don’t see the big picture of the problem that they don’t relate the current challenges they are facing to the same things they perpetuate. Worse still leaders have exploited this gullibility to make people feel hapless and to keep perpetuating the vicious cycle. That is why the culture of handouts to buy political support thrive.
Poverty destroys the dignity of the people. Unemployment is an obvious harbinger for poverty. Poor jobs also have a direct correlation to poverty levels. Inability to create quality jobs in an economy is a direct consequence of seismic problems. The two aforementioned job conditions are exhibited in the Kenyan economy. Yet we have an opportunity to put a stop to this. We either do it now or we embrace a troubled country in near future.
Ikunda is a researcher and consultant
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