The number of parents who speak to me looking for internship opportunities for their children shows the shift that searching for employment has taken.
It is no longer about a child attaining the age of 18 and getting into the big bad world by themselves. It is now a family affair to search opportunities for their young ones.
One blazing hot Sunday afternoon in the heat of Mombasa. I had a conversation with a 21-year-old woman who works at a leading bank, where she started off as an intern. She shared with me how work experience has been for her, even though it has been for a few months.
"I do everything in that department. And some people that I work with are so old, they can't stay awake during meetings. They throw you under the bus, make presentations you are unprepared for. While I do everything in the office, they lounge and drink tea. Thank goodness I have not been taught to use the computer system, there are some things I can't do. They want to teach me soon though. Then I will be worried."
But she is consoled by the fact she has a job. Many of her friends are jobless. Even though she is overworked and lowly paid, she is doing better than many of her age mates.
“Who is doing really well from your class?" I asked. "The boy we least expected" She smirked, "all he did was sit in class. Only focused on mathematics. Teachers tried to talk to him. Even involved his parents. His parents told teacher they will sort him after he graduates. After Form Four, an uncle secured him a job at the port. He now earns Ksh100,000. Can you imagine?"
Many young people are debating whether to leave Kenya and search for opportunities elsewhere. They even dream of becoming a citizen of another country. But becoming a citizen is not that simple and straightforward in any country.
For instance, Kenya Investment Authority plans to offer citizenship to wealthy investors who make an impact as far as employment is concerned.
But before citizenship is granted, individuals will be vetted in a watertight system to make sure that applications are authentic. Whether the process can be free from outside influences is a debate for another day.
Investors are good for any country. However, we have recently seen the number of foreign companies that have shut down. Firms have moved to neighbouring countries as doing business outside Kenya is appearing to be more attractive.
What would the benefit of being a citizen be? For the US, something as simple as travel, where you would hardly require a visa to travel to multiple countries is a benefit. For your children it would be a free education system. Better health care even though it is expensive.
Wealthy investors would be leaving that for what? Perhaps buy a beach plot on the coast line? They can already do that, not requiring citizenship. Kenya has always been flexible with the wealthy.
Encouraging partnerships between countries is key especially as we look at the East African Community for opportunities. Indeed, the government should consider investing in the region.
All in all, we can dream about building a future, but the reality is — there are young people who are jobless right now. And even within those jobless youth, born and raised in Kenya, getting their own identity documents is a process.
They have to go with their parents’ identity cards or birth certificates to prove that they were born in Kenya. Some do not have access to citizenship.
Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW