Africa’s Bright Economic Future Is Its Youth
Africa’s Bright Economic Future Is Its Youth

At his furniture workshop in Kayole, east of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Joseph Ochieng wiped sweat from his brow as he pushed the saw up and down to separate two pieces of wood.

Ochieng was in the process of making a dining table for a client and was working hard to complete it.

At his workshop, the 35-year-old has employed four other youths, all with various furniture-making skills.

“It’s four years since I opened the workshop after working for someone who gave me an opportunity to learn and earn,” he said.

And just as he was trained, he has also given the youth a chance to learn the skill.

Ochieng is one among hundreds of Kenyan skilled youth who are creating their own jobs, and even jobs for others.

Youths who fail to get higher grades at the secondary school level, join technical training colleges where they train for between one to three years.

It is these skills in welding, carpentry, masonry, tailoring, crockery and motor vehicle mechanics, among others, that they are using to create jobs.

“I studied welding for about two years at a technical college in Machakos, eastern Kenya, then went for apprenticeship at a workshop in the town,” said Steve Musyoka, a welder in Kitengela.

He runs his workshop in the fast-growing suburb, making steel doors, windows and wheelbarrows with three of his workers.

“I do some of the work at the workshop or carry my tools to peoples’ homes where there is work in case there is need,” he said. As his workshop flourishes, however, it has not been an easy ride, according to him.

“Soon after college, I worked at a workshop in Machakos where I would be paid a shilling for each steel rod I cut. My dairy target was 100 rods, which means I would earn 1 U.S. dollar a day. It was little money but I persevered and learnt,” said the 28-year-old.

With the help of his parents, he was later able to buy a welding machine and an angle grinder, the main tools in the trade and rented a room that remains his workshop.

A brand new welding machine goes for an average of 800 dollars and a grinder at between 65 dollars and 100 dollars depending on the size.

On a good day, Musyoka makes up to 40 dollars, money that caters for his workers’ salaries and rent.

KNBS in its latest Economic Survey 2019 notes that some 762,200 jobs were created in the informal sector where most of the skilled youths operate in 2018. This is almost ten times the jobs created in the formal sector.

The government has recognized the value of the sector and has moved to boost the industry by building more facilities, equipping them and giving students loans.

Enrolment to technical institutions stood at a record 363,884 in 2018, up from 275,139 in 2017 and 202,556 in 2016, according to KNBS.

Ernest Manuyo, a business lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, noted that skilled youths have advantage over university graduates because their courses take a shorter time to complete and they have skills that enable them start their own businesses.

“What they only need is cash to buy tools and they are good to go. These are the people now driving the economy,” he said.

by Bedah Mengo

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