Troubled Youth Employment Fund Unleashes Potential of Kenya’s Youth | News

News | 12-09-2023 | 08:14

The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) aims to address the huge problem of youth unemployment in Kenya to ensure the potential of the youth to contribute to a sustainable and inclusive development and economy. Beatrice Gichohi, head of CFYE Kenya, says the project is crucial in the Kenyan context.

image: ©Embassy of the Netherlands in Kenya

Group photo from the training event of the Foundation for Youth Employment.

Kenya is facing a youth boom with 75% of Kenya’s population under the age of 35. This creates both an opportunity and a threat. This is a huge opportunity in terms of production and service delivery. But for this opportunity to be realized, concerted efforts and targeted investments are needed. Currently, the youth unemployment rate in Kenya is estimated at 35% (4.5 million young men and women), compared to the overall national unemployment rate of 10%.

What is the Challenged Youth Employment Fund?

The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment is a 7-year project funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The fund is managed by a consortium of three organizations: Palladium, VSO and Randstad.

The Youth Employment Challenge Fund aims to support credible and innovative ideas to create or improve decent work prospects for young people, especially young women. For this program, youth is defined as adults between the ages of 15 and 35. Over the next seven years, CFYE will work with selected implementing partners in the Middle East, North Africa, Sahel/West Africa and the Horn of Africa to address youth underemployment and unemployment in these regions. The foundation works with private sector organizations to ensure the sustainability of the solutions created.

Beatrice Gichohi, Head of CFYE Kenya, answers questions about the Fund.

And why is this foundation so important in the Kenyan context?

“The largest number of Kenyans fall into the youth group and Kenya is one of the countries that is witnessing the growth of youth. Kenya’s youth unemployment rate is higher than the rest, and it is even worse among women, who are disproportionately represented. Considering that more than a million graduates continue to increase the number of unemployed youth every year, this project is crucial in solving the problem of unemployment.

As there are too many women among the unemployed, CFYE is making a concerted effort to ensure that they reach out to women through the fund. Each call is preceded by a market analysis to identify opportunities for youth, and especially for women. This market scan informs the call for bids.”

New applications have just closed. What is the focus of this call?

“In Kenya, CFYE conducted two tenders that resulted in the selection of 17 implementing partners. The last two CFYE competitions have focused on green jobs, digital business development services and the creative sector. This was primarily in line with the aspirations of the embassy in Kenya, specifically for this third competition, which looks at the health, energy and agro-processing sectors. This third and final solution competition is dedicated to organizations in the digital health, renewable energy, agro-logistics and agro-processing sectors. “

You have been active in this space for quite some time. In your experience, what are the biggest challenges facing young people who want to enter the job market?

“During the development of the CFYE project, research was carried out to help understand employment gaps and potential sectors to focus on. From the scoping report, the most significant challenges facing young people wanting to enter the job market include:

  • Skills Gap: There is a mismatch between the skills of the youth and what the industry is looking for.
  • Limited employment opportunities: Kenya’s economy does not create enough jobs every year. This leads to an increase in the number of unemployed youth as the economy can only absorb a few.
  • Lack of entrepreneurial skills and capital: Most young people lack the necessary skills to start their own business and create self-employment. Where they have the skills, they lack the capital needed to open their businesses due to lack of collateral and other requirements of financial institutions.
  • Lack of or limited networks: Most youth do not have significant and resourceful networks that could connect them to organizations or other economic opportunities.
  • Barriers for women: These include mobility due to family commitments, family concerns and childcare responsibilities, and access to collateral (with limited property rights)’.

What role do you see the business community in the Netherlands playing in overcoming such challenges?

“The Dutch business community can use its knowledge and technology through partnerships with MSMEs in Kenya to drive growth and market. Another way of support is participation in technical forums dedicated to youth employment issues. Finally, they can offer opportunities to the youth themselves, be it through mentoring, internships or making sure that their investments in Kenya create jobs for Kenyan youth.”

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