The future is African; it’s time to get ready for it

By Jane Mwangi
On 2 December 2019 at 01:00

It is safe to say without any fear of contradiction that the future is very African. The numbers speak for themselves. Over 50 per cent of Africans are under the age of 20. This means that by 2050, four out of ten workers in the world will be from Africa and that underlines the premise that the future is very African.

A large population presents opportunities to market goods and services as there is an increase in demand, this then stimulates investments and output production leading to job creation and income per head.

According to the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (UN-OSAA), while this demographic presents great opportunities, it presents risks such as unemployment and underemployment, lack of social security, lack of educational opportunities and inclusive governance, which can drive youth to informal or even criminal activities.

To ensure that the future remains African, we have to tackle youth poverty. Even though we can link this to youth unemployment, we have to accept that under-employment and lack of decent working conditions also plays a big role.

According to a report published by the International Labour Organisation on Youth employment in Africa, of the 38.1 percent estimated total working poor in sub-Saharan Africa, young people account for 23.5 percent.

This report further suggests that many workers in Africa find themselves having to take unattractive jobs that tend to be insecure and are characterized by low pay and little or no access to social protection and rights. At 94.9 percent, insecure employment is the main source of employment for Africa youth.

As a financier, KCB established the KCB Foundation in 2007 to implement the Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs for sustainable development and poverty reduction; focusing on SMEs, women, and youth.

Further to this, we incorporated four Sustainable Development Goals as adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. These goals are No poverty, Quality education, Gender equality and Partnerships for the goals which all tie into our shared value programs, CSR initiative, and philanthropy.

In Kenya, the targeted skills and entrepreneurship training programme 2jiajiri has been the main engine tackling youth unemployment by providing technical skills thus creating jobs since 2016. So far, close to 30,000 jobs have been generated in five sub-sectors; agribusiness, automotive engineering, beauty, and personal care, building and construction and domestic services.

The possible effects of vocational and technical training include increased education and averted youth unemployment and to make our programmes more effective, we issue tools that are trade specific to the area of study and business. This we have done both in Kenya and Tanzania.

In the past year we have issued construction toolkits to 582 youth in Kenya. In Tanzania, 245 women supported under our empowerment programme through training on financial and business practices have been recently issued with tools of trade to grow their already existing MSMEs into SMEs. And it is with this backdrop that we have set out to do the same – and probably more - in Rwanda.

Through the Igire programme, we are sponsoring youth to study in the respective fields of Information and Communications Technology, culinary arts, tiling, welding and motor vehicle mechanics at various polytechnics in Rwanda.

In collaboration with the Rwanda National Youth Council, Igire seeks to bridge the unemployment gap through vocational training and to invest in skills acquired which if nurtured will grow and out of necessity require extra hands. Our collective efforts will go a long way in establishing a strong pool of skilled youth and give young people a way out of poverty.

In an effort to support the Digital Literacy programme that aims to equip up to 5,000,000 Rwandans with digital skills to drive digital inclusion and growth by 2024, we are supporting the government’s efforts by putting in measures to train youth in different polytechnics.

Moreover, even though culinary arts programmes for youth development Africa is rare, most organisations around the world realise that it is more than food preparation and are engaging disenfranchised youth through programmes that teach the value of nutritious meals for the growth of a healthy nation thus our investment in it.

Recently, KCB Foundation initiated an up-skillers programme to engage youth who were already running enterprises but were limited in terms of upscaling for increased income.

This programme entails upgrading skills and teaching youth tricks of the trade along with business development services such as legal, financial literacy and marketing strategies to enable them make progress in their businesses.

This will soon be introduced in Rwanda as it is already working in Kenya through 2jiajiri.

By investing in youth people, transforming education systems and up skills training, we shape the future of millions by creating a skilled cohort of individuals prepared to create flourishing economies and peaceful societies. If the future is truly African, Africa must arise and get ready for that future.

Jane Mwangi is the Managing Director of KCB Foundation. [email protected]