A growing number of youth faced with hopelessness of securing a job, are now settling for income generating activities requiring one to think out of the usual.
And one of them is manufacturing sandals from waste tyres and leather.
John Mwenda was focused on formal employment upon completion of his studies in 2005 until the reality dawned on him two years later.
Learning institutions release at least one million graduates into the Kenyan job market each year but only about a half are absorbed into the formal sector, with a huge remnant staying without an employment.
This is not withstanding the thousands of whom lack special skills and proper education but seek for employment in established institutions.
“To get a job in Kenya tends to be a challenging time in one’s lifetime. I ended up doing casual jobs whose pay could hardly cater for my food expenses,” Mwenda, in his early thirties, said on Thursday during an interview.
Yearning for a better life, Mwenda decided to put his apprentice skills into practice. In his childhood, he had served as a hand man for his father, who made bags and shoes from leather products.
Mwenda based in Maasai Market in Nakuru town, about 160 km northwest of the capital city of Nairobi, is lucratively designing tyre sandals attractive to both the local and foreign tourists.
“It may sound easy to make sandals from the tyres but this is a job that requires one to be creative and innovative to remain in the business because there are other competitive shoe makers,” said the businessman whose monthly sales average 100 pairs.
He also complements the sandals with leather and fabrics especially when the customer needs a foot wear that matches his or her outfit.
Most of his customers include those attending social functions such as weddings and retreats since his sandals are best fit for outdoor and relaxation activities.
Tourists equally adore his products and many make bulk orders boosting his profits. The design for each unit determines its cost which could range from 6.5 dollars to 15 dollars.
Making a sandal involves cleaning and sanitizing a piece of waste tyre before cutting it out into a preferred size of sole and straps.
The outer and inner sole is fixed with adhesive glue. The straps and inner sole can be blended with a piece of fabric or leather to meet the preferences of the specific customer.
“Competition from other imported shoes is one of the major challenges facing my business. People prefer them because their prices are low,” he noted, adding that “but these sandals are very durable. They can last for more than five years based on how the wearer maintains them.”
“It is always good and ambitious to look forward to working in an office but when that opportunity becomes elusive, putting your mind into an alternative form of employment is the best step to take as long as the outcome is earning an income and living a better life,” he added.
It is the profits gained from his tyre shoe making business that Isaac Kamau, who also earns a living from sandal-making, has managed to sustain his family for the past four years.
For years, the youthful Kamau who lacks proper education worked in various capacities in firms until he became redundant and could no longer be considered for a job.
Realizing he was going to end up in the streets due to lack of rent, he arouse his creativity in recycling tyres into usable products.
The father of one is now enjoying the fruits of his labour as clients from as far as Rwanda and Tanzania are ordering for his hand made sandals.
He says his job demands for an innovative mind since some clients require sandals made in a selective design fitting the figure of the foot.
Kamau who makes the sandals from his house in a Nakuru town estate currently rates a pair for adults between seven dollars and 15 dollars while for the children he sells five dollars, utmost.
The two makers of sandals from tyres join the thousands of the small and micro scale traders who are employing innovation and creativity to escape from poverty or worries of falling into joblessness.
“There must be inclusivity when you are talking about empowering the youth in any country. Both the educated and uneducated require guidance on how to be innovate enough to create jobs for themselves and absorb others,” argues economist Professor Tom Nyamache.
“We cannot talk about employment if we do not have institutions that can absorb the qualified or innovative minds to create the jobs,” added Nyamache attached to Mount Kenya University.
The micro and small business holders require more support to graduate into medium sized companies to expand the absorption bracket for skilled labour, Professor Nyamache said.
Kenya has established a Micro and Small Enterprises Authority to streamline the sector and assist the entrepreneurs thrive in their various businesses through training on innovations, networking and marketing among other aspects. Enditem