Prepare Kenyan youth for new tech-based jobs 

Digital business

Africa, and Kenya specifically, is only beginning to scratch the surface with regard to opportunities presented by the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • In this new-collar generation, we can move Kenyan youth from digging trenches to data and tech roles in government offices.
  • New-collar workers should be trained on entrepreneurship to raise the next generation of employers and taxpayers.

Some good news for Kenyan youth. The Kazi Mtaani programme has been extended to the end of next year to allow more youths to benefit from the programme.

Launched in July 2020 to cushion Kenyan youth against the vagaries of the Covid-19 pandemic, the programme is currently run by the State Department for Housing and Urban Development and supports hundreds of thousands of Kenyan youth through several workstreams including construction, cleaning and planting trees.

The young people have also been trained on HIV/Aids prevention, mental health, masonry, carpentry and setting up businesses.

This is a great initiative that puts money in the pockets of Kenyan youth, keeping them off the streets. If government statistics are anything to go by, more than Sh10 billion has been spent to support 280,000 families across the 47 counties through this programme.

‘New collar’ jobs

That said, the renewal of this programme should be an opportunity for the government to reflect on more sustainable programmes to support the youth. The world is living through the 4th Industrial Revolution, which is characterised by technologies such as big data, internet of things, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and robotics.

Africa, and Kenya specifically, is only beginning to scratch the surface with regard to these technologies, but we must also tap into the benefits of these technologies. We must devise leapfrogging strategies to catch up with the rest of the world, and such youth-centered government-sponsored projects present the perfect opportunity.

While supporting Kenyan youth through casual labour works in the interim, government must think beyond stopgap measures and identify opportunities to sustainably support Kenya’s youth in the long term. For example, training on mental health and HIV/Aids is important. The government could, however, expand the portfolio to include more tech-based training to equip the youth for the digital world.

Government could also use these opportunities to train young people on business opportunities available online, as the world moves from blue-collar and white-collar jobs to ‘new collar’ jobs. New collar jobs are the digtial-age jobs, mostly technical jobs that need workers to have a specialised skill set. The good news is that new-collar jobs do not need a university degree. Instead, new-collar workers are trained in technical institutes, vocational schools, technology-based boot camps, trainings and masterclasses as well as apprenticeships. In this new-collar generation, we can move Kenyan youth from digging trenches to data and tech roles in government offices.

Beyond giving daily wages to jobless youth, the government should invest in supporting the next generation of new-collar workers through nationwide tech-based training. New-collar workers should be trained on entrepreneurship to raise the next generation of employers and taxpayers. This way, they will acquire life-long skills that can be updated with advancing technology. In the long term, it is more cost-effective for the government to empower the youth with tech skills.

The writer is the Director, Innovation Centre, at Aga Khan University; [email protected]

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