“Investing in young people is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do,” said the President in a speech read on his behalf by the Cabinet Secretary of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Sicily Kariuki during the 5th African Union - European Union Summit in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire.
President Kenyatta said harnessing the demographic dividend in Africa will depend on the continent’s commitment to create sufficient job opportunities to absorb the rising number of new entrants in the job market and the preparedness of the young people to take up the jobs.
“We must not only aim at creating jobs for the youth, but also and more importantly, in building their capacities with appropriate skills, expertise and attitudes that will enable them make positive contributions,” he said.
The President said diverse experiences in addressing youth unemployment in Africa should provide a strong orientation towards adopting the best practices in creating decent jobs and livelihoods.
In these undertakings, the support of development partners will be highly appreciated, he added.
The support, the President said, will ensure Agenda 2063 – Africa’s vision and action plan towards sustainable socio-economic and political development which recognizes the need to empower African youth and women to be the drivers of change – is achieved.
The plan envisions an Africa where the creativity and innovation will be the driving force of Africa’s transformation.
President Kenyatta said the African population has about 75 per cent of youth aged below 35 years.
He said as the African population continues to grow, the proportion of those within the working age of 16 – 64 years of age will grow exponentially.
The Head of State said Kenya is implementing a number of policy and programmatic interventions in education, health, economic and governance sectors geared towards creating opportunities for special demographic segments, including youth and women.
“It is our firm belief that empowering these population segments is a critical part of harnessing a demographic dividend for long-term economic transformation,” he said.
The President said as part of the youth agenda, Kenya has developed a policy and legal framework that targets 30 per cent of Government procurement in favour of enterprises owned by the youth, women and persons with disabilities.
Other interventions, he said, include access to concessional loans; investing in technical and vocational skills training for youths; launch of youth volunteer programmes, internships and apprenticeships programs to help youth acquire the requisite skills; innovation and entrepreneurial incubation programs; and empowering youth through promoting access to information through ICT.
President Kenyatta said Small and Medium Enterprises, especially in the informal sector are among the fastest growing sectors with potential to create employment among young people.
However, he said, working conditions for young people has to be improved and a favorable business environment created to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among the youth.
“Young people must be supported to transit from job seeking to job creation,” said President Kenyatta.