Young Africa Works in Kenya: Five Views

In the next five years, there will be an estimated six million un- and underemployed Kenyans, the majority of whom will be young people. Government and private sector representatives as well as a delegation of young people were on hand at the launch of a public-private partnership to connect five million young Kenyans to dignified work. Young Africa Works in Kenya is a Ksh 3 billion initiative focused on supporting MSME growth, digital skills training, and connecting young people to opportunities.

Discussions on stage were about the business of work ⁠— both the employment opportunities created by entrepreneurs and what needs to be done to support young business owners.

Views

1.    Young people have solutions

A youth panel shared their perspective on work, as employers, innovators, and transformative leaders.

Panelists:

  • Kevin Kibet Mochama, Founder and Managing Director, FarmMoja, a cooperative that provides smallholder farmers with access to agricultural technologies and markets that allows them to improve their productivity and their incomes.
  • Ruth Kaveke, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Pwani Teknowgalz, a non-profit organization in Mombasa working to bridge the gender gap of women in technology.
  • Lucia Lapur, Founder, Save the Pastoralists Initiative, a venture that aims to empower the Turkana nomadic community through innovative agricultural techniques in arid and semi-arid areas.
  • Gerald Matolo, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Angaza Africa Technologies, a clean energy company that designs electric briquette press machines, processes biomass briquettes, and offers clean energy solutions.

Watch the youth panel >

Audience members took to Twitter with messages urging for more youth to be brought to the table and calling for the courage to change mindsets and embrace the power of young people.

2.    Kenyan solutions for Kenyan challenges

Gerald Matolo, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Angaza Africa Technologies talked about shifting an emphasis from getting jobs to solving challenges. He believes that Kenyan solutions are needed for Kenyan challenges and called for a restructuring in the education system to teach young people how to solve challenges in their communities.

He also emphasized the role of investors during the ideation phase of business development. “Stakeholders should support and believe in young entrepreneurs even in the ideation phase of their businesses. This will give them a chance to scale up their businesses and test in the market.”

Left: Kevin Kibet Mochama, Lucia Lapur, Gerald Matolo, Ruth Kaveke. Right: Gerald Matolo, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Angaza Africa Technologies.

3.    The meaning of ‘work’

Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation discussed how ‘work’ in the future is different from the ‘jobs’ we see today. “Work is all around us. There is work to be done in all industries — work that generates incomes. Young people have to see that opportunity to pursue it. We have to make it visible to them.”

Reeta talked about Tess, a student at JKUAT. An orphan, Tess struggled to make ends meet without leaving her studies until she discovered online work. She was paid to write web articles. From there, she started mentoring others. Now, she’s made enough money to cover her tuition, rent, and all of her other expenses — and graduate from university.

“There are countless stories like Tess and there could be so many more, but unless people have information, knowledge and skills, that work ⁠— that opportunity ⁠— remains invisible,” she explained.

Reeta Roy’s speech at Young Africa Works in Kenya >

4.    Entrepreneurship’s ripple effect

His Excellency the President, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta highlighted the role of small firms and entrepreneurs to expand opportunities for work in new and existing markets. “When small firms and entrepreneurs access financial services, they obtain the resources they require to grow, expand into new markets and opportunities, create jobs and establish inter-generational wealth. The benefits then create a ripple effect which generates employment for others beyond the direct beneficiaries of the access to those financial services.”

Left: Question from the audience at Young Africa Works in Kenya. Right: His Excellency the President, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta and Reeta Roy, CEO, Mastercard Foundation.

5.    There’s work to do

In a live Q&A, youth delegates asked His Excellency the President, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta and Reeta Roy, CEO, Mastercard Foundation how they will support youth in the informal economy and creative industries. Responses acknowledged opportunities for entrepreneurship in these industries and the work that needs to be done to accompany young business owners on their journeys.

His Excellency the President discussed the role of curriculum to prepare youth for opportunities and the need to support business development by removing barriers and simplifying business formalization. He also called for a change in mindset, from valuing the content of one’s wallet to recognizing that it’s the content of one’s brain that matters. He concluded that “hard work pays.”

Reeta talked about prioritizing areas in the economy where vast numbers of young people live. Young Africa Works in Kenya aims to support youth at different points in their journeys — in school, out of school, or having not yet accessed the opportunity. Reeta also discussed the importance of access to capital for young business owners to grow and succeed.

Setting the Stage: The future of employment in Kenya

The aspirations of young people, the economic priorities of a country, and our own focus to increase access to work opportunities for youth set the stage for Young Africa Works in Kenya.

Young Africa Works in Kenya

  • Over the next five years, Young Africa Works in Kenya aims to support five million young people to access dignified and fulfilling work.
  • Young Africa Works in Kenya is a public-private partnership supporting the country’s economic priorities, specifically the ‘Big Four’ sectors and the digital economy. The ‘Big Four’ sectors are focused on enhancing manufacturing, food security and nutrition, universal health coverage, and affordable housing.
  • To start, the Mastercard Foundation will commit Ksh 30 billion to do the following:
    • Grow micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) which can expand the ‘Big Four’ sectors and create opportunities for young people.
    • Grow digital talent and increase access to work opportunities in the digital economy. This includes expanding the Ajira Digital program in order to provide digital skills training and mentoring to young Kenyans and increase their access to locally available digital and digitally-enabled work opportunities.
    • Expand skills that are critical to the growth of the economy, particularly vocational and technical skills. The initiative is collaborating with the Ministry of Education and vocational institutions to equip young people with skills as well as connect them to financial services and markets.

Partners

To start, the following organizations are working together to implement Young Africa Works in Kenya. The Foundation will work to bring on more partners as the initiative progresses:

  • Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA)
  • KCB Group and KCB Foundation
  • Equity Bank Group and Equity Bank Foundation (EGF)
  • Moringa School
  • eMobilis
  • Ministry of ICT
  • Ministry of Education