At a recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) youth discourse held at Strathmore Business School it was clearly evident how passionate the youth are about Kenya and Africa as a region.
They have a deep yearning to be included in the upcoming ministerial conference in Nairobi and to have policies formulated and implemented that specifically target their demographic.
When at least 70 per cent of the African population is under 30 years of age it’s understandable why they would take a keen interest in a behemoth like the WTO which on the outside may only seem relevant to top tier individuals, corporations, non-governmental organisations and governments. However what happens at the top eventually trickles down to the ordinary individuals.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that between 2000 and 2008 Africa created 73 million jobs, but only 16 million for young people aged between 15 and 24. As a result, many young Africans find themselves unemployed or, more frequently, underemployed in informal jobs with low productivity and pay. Of Africa’s unemployed, 60% are young people and youth unemployment rates are double those of adult unemployment in most African countries.
These are startling figures. What is not so surprising is that in spite of the growth of information, communication and technology (ICT), the services sector and other industries, agribusiness remains the bedrock of employment, growth and opportunity. So how can this agricultural space be well utilised?
From the discussions at the discourse the youth are advised to enhance and tap into farming directly. They are also advised to look into logistical support because mobility is an issue. In many parts of Africa moving produce from source to market is bedevilled by poor infrastructure making it costly for the farmer to sell their produce. A young person may not be able to afford a farm or the costs that go into farming but he/she can partner with a friend and buy a truck thereby solving the farmer’s problem.
Yet another area to focus on is sourcing of markets. While the farmer does what he does best, the youth can focus on looking for new markets and trade opportunities. African youth cannot continue to rely on formal employment, the future lies in informal employment and in creating opportunities for one self.
According to African Economic Outlook From 2001-10, with almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world. And it keeps growing rapidly. The number of young people in Africa will double by 2045. Between 2000 and 2008, Africa’s working age population (15-64 years) grew from 443 million to 550 million; an increase of 25%. According to McKinsey Global Institute, if this trend continues, the continent’s labour force will be 1 billion strong by 2040, making it the largest in the world, surpassing both China and India.
In Kenya, there are a few vehicles allocated to the youth notable among them is the ‘Youth Fund’ which though brilliant in terms of providing financing to enterprising youth groups is hardly a representative body of the youth. There is need for an organization where collectively the ‘youth’s voice’ can be heard as opposed to individuals struggling by themselves to be recognized let alone even heard.
Key to the youth’s success or lack thereof is the monopolization of big brands/companies that have a strangle-hold on key markets in order to maintain the status quo. In addition as part of the ministerial conference the youth feel it’s imperative to look into policies and regulations that favour developing countries as much as developed ones. Policy formulation is key to leveling the playing ground for companies offering services in multiple countries
It has been said that fairness and justice is difficult to achieve in the context of trade. In spite of that, from the dialogue one can tell that young people are hopeful and willing to succeed against all odds.
What do the youth want from the Nairobi MC10? A voice, recognition, input a fighting chance in national, regional maybe even global trade.