President Kibaki has cited unemployment as the biggest hurdle in Kenya’s quest to transform into a middle income country in East Africa.
The head of state who spoke at the 47th Madaraka Day celebrations conceded the government could not create enough job opportunities for millions of youth entering the job market annually.
Finding employment has become a nightmare for many youth entering the job market from the numerous universities being springing up in the country.
According to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, there are nearly 2.5 million unemployed youth, and barely 125,000 are absorbed annually into formal employment.
However, many economists believe the number of unemployed youth could be higher than the official government figure, given the expansion of secondary and tertiary education in recent times.
Some have referred to the problem as a ‘ticking time bomb’ saying the number of unemployed youth could rise to 14 million over the next seven years.
In an interview with the Saturday Nation, the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research chief executive officer, Prof Inonda Mwanje, warned the high number of jobless youths could spark off a peoples’ revolution if it is not tamed.
Yesterday President Kibaki asked the private sector to help the government create more jobs for the youth.
“The government cannot do the work alone, we need help from the private sector,” the President added.
For Kenya to transform into middle income country, it has to achieve and maintain a growth rate of 10 percent for more than a decade.
The head of state said the government will continue investing in job creation through the Kazi Kwa Vijana project, to help the youth live descent lives, despite the economic challenges the country faces.
However, the project has since run into financial and administrative problems, causing concerns that it might soon collapse, shutting more youths from employment.
The President urged Kenyans not to loose hope, saying the economy was projected to grow between four and five percent this year, due to the favourable weather and prudent economic policies.
Last year, a total of 55,500 jobs were created up from 34,000 the previous year, with the building and construction industry registering the highest growth, especially in the private sector.
The National Economic Survey 2010, launched recently, attributed the increase to favourable business environment, availability of credit from financial institutions and increased investment opportunities.
However, employment creation in the manufacturing sector registered marginal growth, with the agriculture and forestry industries recording a decline, mainly due to the prolonged drought that bedeviled the country for the better part of last year.
President Kibaki urged Kenyans to take advantage of the East African Common Market, expected to come into force next month, following the signing of the protocol by the five East African member states last year.
“Since it (the common market) will allow free movement of goods and services, I urge Kenyans to take advantage of the protocol and create more job opportunities,” he added.
President Kibaki also asked Kenyans to be friendly and welcome citizens from other East African Community member states who will be coming to Kenya to seek employment or do business.
The establishment of a monetary union is the next target for the five countries and discussions have already began.
Last week, Kenya’s Central Bank Governor, Njuguna Ndungu, confirmed that discussions on the issue had began and central bank governors of the five states had started discussions.
“We are sharing our ideas and giving our input on the issue. Though it is not an easy I task I believe the union will be a reality,” Prof Ndungu said.