Youth unemployment stands at 64 percent in Mombasa. This high level of unemployment is unsustainable and has resulted in more youth engaging in vices such as crime, drug abuse and getting radicalized. Reports from the Lamu following the killing of 11 Alshabab militants shows that a number of them were Mombasa youth. It is therefore important that Mombasa finds ways of getting the youth gainfully employed.
The UK government through the Department for International Development (DFID) is hoping KUZA (‘grow’ in Kiswahili) a project designed to improve skills and employability of the youth can be one of the solutions. The project is working with the county government will run for 3 years and intends to create 5,000 jobs in Mombasa alone for the youth.
In addition the project will train 8,000 youth in business skills and offer courses, career guidance and job search assistance.
“What KUZA is doing is creating jobs for the youth, it is doing that by taking different sectors, building the skills and job centers. Creating the opportunities at a very local to get youth into work,” said Christian Turner outgoing British High Commissioner.
Some of the targeted sectors include manufacturing where KUZA will work with players in the sector to increase competitiveness and growth. KUZA will also work with the construction industry to the skills of the youth working in the sector. This will be done by advising on the reformation of the vocational education system to ensure the development of construction skills in the youth.
For the youth working in the informal sector there is a plan to link them to big businesses like Unilever to give them access to better markets and even potential investment opportunities. Tony, a trader based at the Kongowea market welcomes the opportunities that would arise from such an arrangement as many traders incur losses or make very little profit especially when the markets are weak.
KUZA is also working with the county government with the intention to unlock the opportunities for employment in solid waste management ecosystem. Currently, KUZA is conducting a waste collection and management study in Mombasa whose findings will be important to ending the solid waste challenges in the city.
Christian Turner sees massive potential in the youth.
“The potential of Kenyan youth makes me so optimistic about this country, we want to unleash that to give them opportunities that can generate growth and further investment.”
Mbele, a young university graduate who is also a member of a self help group thinks it is a great idea though remains cautiously optimistic.
“Government and NGO’s have come with many youth projects in the past but nothing really changes for us the youth. If KUZA changed that it would be the best thing for us young people of Mombasa.”