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Youth Unemployment and Citizenship Conference

One of the key areas of research for Strathmore Governance Centre (SGC) is the nature and the interpretation of the concept of citizenship and the governance challenges it presents. Under this general context, SGC formulated its Youth Project which has short and long terms objectives. In March this year, the first step of the project was formulated in a survey funded by Rahimtulla Trust. It is part of a larger Youth and Citizenship project which seeks to assess the state of youth unemployment in Nairobi and its impact on their social integration.


Data was collected from a random sample of 1000 young citizens in Nairobi County as well as employers from various industries and policy makers. Nairobi County was selected due to the limited financial resources, though as the project progresses, a series of quarterly round tables on livelihood opportunities for youth will be held, inviting youth from other counties around the country, academics, policy makers and industry representatives. Among the sources of livelihood under discussion will be existing opportunities in Agriculture and Agribusiness, Sports and Entrepreneurship as well as guidance on how to tap into the youth friendly policies and funds currently available in the country.


To present the findings of the Survey, SGC held a conference titled “Youth Citizenship and Unemployment” on the 28th of October 2014 at Strathmore University. The conference brought together a gathering of over one hundred youth, policy makers, academics, and human resource officers from the private and public sectors. Guest Speaker, Mr. Linus Gitahi, Chairman of the Federation of Kenya Employer (FKE) and the Nation Media group, spoke candidly on the need to protect the local market from the rapid liberalization in order to protect local industries and the dignity of the Kenyan population through the opportunity to access economic security. He advocated for workable incentives that government could initiate to encourage job creation by local industries. From a well-informed point of he cited a number of enlightened examples of what could be done.


The survey findings presented by lead Researcher Dr. Antoinette Kankindi, informed the need to continue with the project revealing a number of key issues such as the gaps in youth preparation for the work place, skills mismatch, the loss of value of hard, etc. Moreover there is a clear lack of understanding of the term responsible citizenship as well as a sense of delayed responsibility among the youth who believe that they can only contribute to the society later in life, mostly once in formal employment. This perspective encourages an attitude of entitlement from the state by the youth, who do not see meaningful ways to contribute to the society within their self-created limitations of youth.

Another indication of the need for more research and intervention on matters of unemployment and citizenship was the lack of the mention of “hard work” as being a characteristic of a good citizen; most responses were largely hinged on observing and respecting the rule of law, which in turn is rather the fear of the law and law enforcers. On the part of the feedback from employers, there was an agreement on the lack of soft skills among the youth, however acknowledging the presence of technical skills. Also noted was the lack of consistency, hard work and patience among younger employees, who demand large sums of money, senior positions and status at entry level. As these youth are a generation set to take up positions of public service delivery in the near future, it is necessary to hasten these interventions and prepare them for leadership positions especially in public service as this is relevant to overcoming most of the governance challenges currently experienced in the old guard.



Mr. Peter Kegode, an expert in agribusiness with over 25years experience in the sector, spoke on agriculture as a sector of the economy with immense and untapped opportunities especially for the youth whose dream jobs are mostly white collar jobs. The challenge in agriculture is that it is seen with less prestige among the youth, requiring hard work which is seen as too demanding among the youth. The patience and consistency required in this field is also unfortunately deterrent for many youth.



Dr. Tom Odhiambo from the University of Nairobi summarized the general discussion of the conference through his three points: respect for work, especially labour; creativity of the youth; and exploiting the economics of the society as opportunities for economic security among the youth.

The conference generated lively discussions on possible interventions to the youth agenda, among them the involvement of private sector in this discourse through dialogue with universities to ensure a right match of talent and technical skills in the market. Also, public sector representatives encouraged the youth to take interest in the opportunities such as tendering and funds set aside for youth business ventures.



The Centre is currently working on an academic paper on Youth Unemployment and Citizenship which will be shared early next year as plans are also underway to conduct the series of roundtables on the opportunities for youth livelihoods and a subsequent training module for youth leaders across Kenya.


SGC acknowledges and thanks Rahimtulla Trust and the project research team made up of Dr. Dominic Burbidge, currently doing his Post-Doctoral studies at Princeton University in the USA, Sandra Mututi who is a Graduate Assistant in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Wambui Kariuki who is a Research Assistant at SGC and Mrs Ruby Kimondo who is a part-time support staff on the Project. A good number of Dr. Kankindi’s students assisted in the data collection process: Christine Ndindi Wambua, Evelyn Chaki Ndirangu, Abedi Kivindyo, Gura Billy, Timothy Mwangi Macharia, Odero Mauline, Muchama Cynthia, Ian Dennis Oduor, Nelly Makenna Kimathi, Gicheha Kennedy, Owaka Brian Okoth, Ngetich Herbert Kipkosgei, Lisa Nabulumbi Wekhuye, William Runo, Timothy Karweti, Eddy Iragi, Sumeya Ahmed and Lilian Mwikali.


Mr. Linus Gitahi talks more about it…