The Improvisers: Youth Unemployment in Nairobi

Nairobi | 08/05/2013 8:25am
Informal City Dialogues

Please click here to read the story summarized below.

When the economic powerhouse of an entire continental region is on a trajectory that will leave it will virtually no formal jobs in the near future, something’s gotta give.

That something is Kenya’s youth, who, as it happens, are the ones suffering the most from the country’s jobless woes — 80 percent of unemployed Kenyans are between the ages of 15 and 34. This grim situation can be attributed to a confluence of factors: A massive youth bulge, an education system that churns out graduates for a formal economy that doesn’t really exist, and a government whose efforts to solve the problem are hobbled by inefficiencies and corruption. So who will solve the youth unemployment problem? For now, the youth themselves.

With few formal jobs to speak of, the young people of Kenya are joining the informal economy, and indeed, their small enterprises may represent the best hope for the country’s future. What’s lacking is a system that supports them: Schools that train for entrepreneurship and innovative thinking, government programs that give them a boost, a banking system that sees them as a good investment. In the fifth Forefront for the Informal City Dialogues, Abigail Higgins meets the young people who are driving Kenya’s informal economy forward, and searches for new ideas that might propel them forward faster still.

Forefront stories for the Informal City Dialogues are offered free of charge. Click here to read our most recent Forefront, “The Improvisers,” and find our previously published long-form stories by clicking the links below.

Crowded House: Accra Tries to Make Room for a Population Boom

Slow Jam: Can Lima Finally Untangle Its Transportation Mess?

Slum Lab: Manila’s Quest to Build a Better Informal Settlement

The D.I.Y. Disaster Plan: How Informal Networks Battled Bangkok’s Worst Flood