The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 4.4 calls for a “substantial increase in the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship” (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2018). In 2016, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) report, one in five children, adolescents and youths are out of school globally. According to the report, Sub-Saharan Africa contributes the largest number of primary, lower and upper secondary going children, adolescents and youth out of school ─ 96. 9 million (male – 46% and female – 54%) representing more than 35 per cent. The Bertelsmann Stifling’s Transformational Index (BTI) report estimates that approximately 67 per cent of Kenya’s out-of-school youths are unemployed either for lack of employable skills or employment opportunities (Stiftung, Bertelsmann, 2018).
Although Kenya is among the countries in the world with the highest percentage of youth percentage, it has about 5 to 10 per cent out of school youth (Economy, 2017). By 2016, about 80 per cent of Kenya’s population was aged below 35 years making it a youthful country with a potential to present huge labour dividend in terms of productivity (Awiti & Scott, 2016). However, underperformance by the formal employment to create additional jobs and lack of requisite skills for job creation has contributed to the existing high youth unemployment status in Kenya (YED-Network, 2017). With such a huge youth population, there is an urgent need for investment in gainful employment opportunities to help them contribute significantly to national growth and development. Currently, most of Kenya’s youth are unemployed and lack requisite 21st century skills sought by employers and are highly susceptible to political manipulation. During the infamous 2007 post-election violence and the just concluded 2017 elections, youth played a leading role and paid the heaviest price.
For Kenya to realize the dividend of being a youth country, strengthen democracy and governance, the youth must be positively engaged meaningfully in job creation. A report by the East African Institute of the Aga Khan University, showed that majority of the Kenyan youth value family, faith and hard work and would like to start their own business (Awiti & Scott, 2016). Moreover, the study posits that the Kenyan youth are largely positive and optimistic about the future and are confident that it will be more prosperous, offering more jobs and better access to health and education. The country can ride on these aforementioned attributes highlighted in the study to build a community of youth that is productive, enlightened and empowered through a well-designed empowerment program.