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.
1. Young people have solutions
A youth panel shared their perspective on work, as employers, innovators, and transformative leaders.
- 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.
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.
We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.#YoungAfricaWorks pic.twitter.com/075GsI4UIg
— Grace Shenga (@grace_shenga) June 20, 2019
It is time to bring the #youth to the table to talk about #work issues that affect them rather than make conclusions on what is affects for them. Let us hear them out????.@MastercardFdn#YoungAfricaWorks pic.twitter.com/mu57mJd1Ag
— ACTV (@ACTVAfrica) June 20, 2019
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Kevin Kibet Mochama, Founder and Managing Director, FarmMoja
Vision: By 2030, Kevin aims to mobilize one million smallholder farmers.
Kevin aims to create prosperity for millions of families by replicating the success of commercial avocado farming with smallholder framers, who will form the primary base of production. He helps farmers increase their avocado yields by giving them tips and providing seedlings from his demo farm. Kevin has hired lead farmers who visit the smallholder farms to ensure the seeds are planted correctly and looked after.
“Most of Kenya’s food production is done by smallholder farmers working on less than 10 hectares. By working with smallholder farmers, we’re able to empower them to produce more, to provide labour and dignified and meaningful work opportunities for young people in rural areas and empower whole communities to access a better standard of living.” – Kevin K. Mochama
Purity Kendi and Phenny Omondi, founders of Kilimo Jijini and Mastercard Foundation alumni
Vision: Empower communities to produce their own food in the small spaces they have.
Purity and Phenny built an urban farm in Kibera, Nairobi. As part of their enterprise, Kilimo Jijini, they teach vertical farming techniques to women who live in Kibera so they can replicate the practices on the limited space that they have. By growing their own produce, these women no longer need to purchase lunch and can invest that money elsewhere. At the farm, Purity and Phenny have employed Mr. David, who instructs classes on agricultural practices as well as entrepreneurship, along with three others. Purity and Phenny believe that their role, as transformative leaders, includes addressing the problems that their communities face. This belief is what drives them to address food insecurity and create opportunities for entrepreneurship in Kibera.
Peris Bosire, Co-Founder, FarmDrive
Vision: Get private capital from financial institutions in the hands of smallholder farmers who need it.
“I believe that entrepreneurs have a big role to create employment for a lot of youth in Africa. There are many problems that need to be solved, such as moving money to smallholder farmers, and produce to market. These are the gaps that are ripe for employment opportunities for youth, and we need more people to become entrepreneurs so that we can create more pathways for employment.” – Peris Bosire
Peris and her business partner, Rita Kimani launched FarmDrive to provide financial services to farmers through a mobile phone. To date, they have provided $800,000 in loans and have served more than 25,000 clients. The data they’ve generated provides smallholder farmers with a credit history so they can more easily access financial products. Peris recognizes that one enterprise alone cannot move the entire industry so their goal now is to help banks design financial products for farmers. “We can move money to where it is needed most, and now we need to open it up to financial institutions,” she explains.
Kenya Vision 2030
Vision: The Kenya Vision 2030 aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrializing, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a clean and secure environment.
“We have a strong platform to expand job opportunities for our young people. We are now seeking to unlock their potential; with this platform being an important avenue to allow them to transform their lives, the country, and the world. What we are launching today will contribute significantly towards this goal in several ways.” – His Excellency President Kenyatta at Young Africa Works in Kenya.
Young Africa Works
Vision: By 2030, our work will enable 30 million young people in Africa to secure dignified and fulfilling work.
Dignified work creates pathways out of poverty. The Mastercard Foundation’s is focused on the issue of work for young people. Its strategy, Young Africa Works, is the result of extensive consultation with leaders of African governments, private sector organizations, educational institutions, civil society, and, most importantly, young people themselves.
“Kenya has a vibrant entrepreneurial culture, a strong private sector, and an enabling policy environment. Young Africa Works in Kenya builds on this momentum to prepare and connect young people to opportunities that will grow the economy and transform their lives.” – Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation at 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.
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
- Ministry of ICT
- Ministry of Education