Afrikan Youth: Resource or Disaster?

Society & Culture | By Elphas Were, Founder of Kenyet | 02 October 2015

The findings by Germany’s KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau) Research as written by Eva Erhardt that youth employment is rightly becoming an increasing focus of development cooperation and never before have there been so many young jobseekers around the globe and more so in developing countries where their numbers will continue to grow in the future echoes very fundamental concerns regarding young people who are according to Eva ‘three times as likely as adults to be hit by unemployment, underemployment or precarious working conditions.” 

“It is a hard nut to crack let alone chew as the population of youths soars by the day and as their woes skyrocket by the minute, who is going to save the youth from the infamy of unemployment and political interference? It is a make or break situation for Afrikan youth which may have a domino effect on the economic development of many countries”.

It is indeed true that youth unemployment has a devastating bearing for a given country in general and the society in particular. Apart from the affected youth, this is a predicament that can easily emasculate the economic gains of a given country. To corroborate the findings echoed by Eva, many governments especially in developing countries are busy working out modalities to harness the great potential vested in the youth for economic development. This is in response to the International Labour Organization alarm in 2012, calling for urgent action on youth employment in its Labour Conference as seconded by the propositions in the Millennium Development goals set to expire by the end of 2015.

The focus on youth in the development agenda is proving colossal to the government and numerous NGOs are now actively involved in jump-starting the process of empowering the youth for sustainable development in all fronts. One such organization is Kenya Youth Economic Network (KEYNET), a Community Based Organization (CBO) that continues to preponderantly empower youths in Kenya especially in the marginalised areas of the country. Simply Known as KEYNET, the organization has created plentiful opportunities for the unreached youths across the country to eke a living through creative and innovative programmes and support.

Outstanding exemplar
KEYNET has moved swiftly to the help of young people who he says comprise well over 50% of the population in many Afrikan countries noting that they also make up the largest cohort of the unemployed. “Such statistics clearly imply that sustainable development requires youth to be a core focus of development planning”, he says. Youth energy, creativity and desire for change represent a huge resource, not only to make a significant quantitative contribution to development, but also to push qualitative change in ways of working, innovative and institutional reforms, including better governance, combating corruption, militia groups, and building a healthier social and physical Afrikan environment.

Empowering young people in Afrika today is one of the most serious challenges facing the continent and although Kenya is experiencing an economic boom, youth unemployment is at its critical level. While Kenya has made strides in the provision of education, the country has not matched this with access to jobs. It remains arguable that  Afrikan youth are becoming better and better  educationally than ever before and with increasing access to ICT and mobile connectivity they are even more exposed to western ideals and aspirations. The Kenya Economic Youth Network (KEYNET) initiative program identifies youth as an area to be addressed by giving consideration to youth development issues not only in Kenya but also in Afrika at large.

Based in Kakamega County, the objectives of KEYNET are non-political and non-profit making and include facilitating youth entrepreneurship for creation of wealth and poverty reduction, talent development for income generation and community development both in and outside Church. KEYNET also indulges in sound academic empowerment, career development and mentorship aimed at creating brighter future generations, environmental development, conservation and promoting healthy living. KEYNET networks and partnerships with the  Government of Kenya, other civil societies and religious organizations and International donors such as USAID, Funds For Hope among others help foster community development and Health education, Nutrition provision. 

Since its inception in 2005, KEYNET has established functional networks in Busia, Siaya, Vihiga and Nandi Counties. The organization offers a comprehensive and

Systematic platform for young people and the community at large to enable them to deal with day to day challenges of life especially those related to social, and economic in order to reach their full potential. KEYNET further advocates for a supportive environment for life skills development and works closely with relevant national and county government departments and any other  key stakeholders.

Empowering the community
KEYNET has been distributing re-usable sanitary towels to needy school girls in western Kenya, a  success story being Bukolwe Secondary School in Kakamega County and Igero Primary School in Busia County where girls were missing out on school due to lack of proper management of menses as others opted to dropout completely. Through this project, teachers and the community have reported an increasing enrolment of girls for national exams and with impressive grades too.

We laud the Dairy goats milk Project for women and the Soya Beans Project piloted in Butere, Kakamega County that has seen the community reap a good sum of money enough for school fees and domestic upkeep. KEYNET has also organized and pitched many medical camps in Butere Sub-County through an annual community initiative dubbed “Butere Annual Community Fair” at Buchenya Primary school. The Organization has promoted peace in the western region of Kenya through sporting activities for the youths in Kakamega County and its environs. 


Currently, KEYNET is carrying out a WASH (water, Sanitation and Hygiene) campaign in partnership with Afrikan Water Association funded by USAID. The objective of the campaign is to sensitize youth and women on their role in water management. Statistics have it that since 1950 the young population worldwide has doubled overall, and in developing countries it will continue to grow over the coming decades. Within the global youth population, major shifts are currently taking place between the regions. More than in any other region, the number of young people in Afrika has exploded. In 1950 just 9% of all young people in the world lived in Afrika. By contrast, in 2050 it is estimated that some 29% of them or around 350 million young people will be Afrikans. The question therefore begs, what is to be done to avert the impending disaster of youth unemployment?