One Party’s Quest to Solve the Unemployment Question in Kenya

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Employ Me Now! launch poster

The Social Democratic Party in Kenya has a campaign dubbed ‘Employ Me Now!’ which was launched in February this year. This is probably the first grassroots led campaign by a party (and young people) not in power. This is new and welcomed approach the employment question in Kenya. This campaign is basically a petition by young people to the government requesting the state to employ them. Though not the best solution there could be on unemployment, it does show the worsening conditions on the ground in regards to lack of employment opportunities. It is also an indication of the increasing audacity of the Kenyan youths who are now petitioning the state to offer employment opportunities to them.

To fully understand this campaign one needs to read the speech given by Benedict Wachira, the Secretary General of the Social Democratic Party given on February 1 2015 at the launch of this campaign at the San Valencia (a restaurant based in Nairobi – ironically situated next to the University of Nairobi).
Benedict Wachira was a colleague in the University, he is one of the young people who are putting their heads in matters of party administration in Kenya with the hope of changing the narrative. I hope he succeeds and I wish him the best of luck. This speech, which I mostly agree with apart from some sections which I will highlight below paints a picture of what is happening on the ground – especially what job seekers go through in search of employment opportunities here in Kenya. In my consented opinion this is also a reflection of what is happening in the region.

Also, to fully understand the campaign, one needs to know that there was a freeze in government recruitment in Kenya at some point. I am not fully aware if this was lifted but this freeze was put in place as a result of the government wage bill reaching unsustainable levels. However, also one has to note that appointments to parastatals and ambassadorial positions have largely gone to the ‘old gizzards’. This has left most of the youths – the majority of the population who voted for this administration disenfranchised.

Going back to the launch speech, I disagree with the notion that formal employment ought to be the default option as is advanced by the SDP secretary general. I think I understand where he is coming from, party ideological point of view nonetheless that should not stop him from appreciating the role of markets.

I think one of the biggest failures in Kenya has been the education system which pins everything to formal white collar jobs while overlooking other channels such as vocational training. This clearly highlighted by the government’s push to turn technical colleges to universities. At the end of the day what you have is degree conveyor belts! However, if vocational training can be taken up as an official policy where making of livelihoods becomes the centre piece of learning, then perhaps things would change.

The Secretary General has put the blame of unemployment squarely on the doors of capitalism! That as it may be I do not think that is entirely correct because even under socialism you have some form of unemployment. I think instead of blaming ideology, the right thing to do would to seek a balance perhaps been the two such that in areas where blunt capitalism is a danger to the welfare of citizen then it is tamed. Capitalism can be checked with a strong trade union and enacting policies that protect the weak in society.

One of the things we have been observing in Kenya and other countries in Africa has been the rise of tenderpreneurs. Basically middlemen who are well connected in government or working in cahoots with government. The tenderpreneurs seems to be the new face of capitalism in Africa and unless we divorce public service from business and business from public service that shall we get our act right. Many of the so called scandals which result to siphoning of public resources are as a result of collusion of the two. The leakage of taxpayer’s funds subsequently results less resources in public coffers which could be used to employ new workers.

The other thing I don’t agree with is obviously the socialist ideology advocated by the SG in the latter parts of his speech. However, I wholeheartedly support the petition by the party since this will give traction to this conversation and the more people talk of this – the more people will try to look for solutions for this unemployment endemic.

i) This petition by SDP can be found on this link: https://www.change.org/p/this-is-a-petition-to-the-president-of-kenya-his-excellency-uhuru-kenyatta-to-come-up-with-solutions-to-the-high-unemployment-rate-in-kenya-the-petition-is-sponsored-by-the-social-democratic-party-of-kenya-sdp
ii) Speech: http://sdpkenya.org/87-recent-news/145-speech-by-benedict-wachira-at-the-launch-of-the-national-campaign-against-unemployment

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Building Inclusive Economies Report

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This is Africa has a report which critically looks at the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative. This report, Building inclusive Economies – Can Africa bridge the development divide? Offers a different perspective to the Africa Rising narrative. Some of the questions which are addressed in this report which are worth looking at are;

• Is the high GDP growth which African states are experiencing evenly distributed among its population? [If not, what can be done to make sure that this growth is evenly distributed?]
• Will the growth rates we are witnessing today continue for the foreseeable future without structural transformation of the African Economies?
• Is Africa investing in new and most importantly clean energy sources?
• Is the infrastructure development which Africa states we are currently undertaking partly financed by China contributing to household incomes?
• Are African states free to come up with their own development policies free from the western centric development models?
• Is a developmental state better than a democratic state or can a democratic state be a developmental state?

The report addresses these among other pertinent questions. Apart from these policy questions there are success stories as well. Rockefeller Foundation the supporters of this publication have highlighted about their initiative, Digital Jobs for Africa. This initiative which operates in urban centres gives jobs to young people who in turn are able to pay their way to college at the same time acquiring valuable on the job training.

However some of the most incisive components of the report are from Dr. Carlos Lopes – Executive Secretary for the UN Commission for Africa, Elsie Kanza – senior Director for Africa at World Economic Forum, Kanayo F. Nwanze – President of IFAD and Adrienne Klasa – from This is Africa.

Dr. Carlos argues for seizing the missed opportunities for industrialization and in doing so Africa must find the missing link between production of agricultural commodities and value addition. According to him, the continent will be addressing the persistent unemployment currently being experienced. However, to do this the continent also has to get its energy supplies right. In the EAC region we have seen a number of infrastructural and energy supplies projects. Perhaps the leaders of the region are reading from the same script as Dr. Carlos.

What I like about Elsie’s segment is the paradigm shift that she calls upon, that governments need to focus on household level as opposed to the whole economy. It is about time the economist in the both government and private sector addressed the household level gains as opposed to whole economy in terms of measuring growth. In doing so, governments will be able to measure the real transformation that is taking place on the ground. Currently, there are a number of grandiose projects taking place in my country – Kenya and in the region. The benefits of these projects do not come immediately and therefore there is a need for the governments to go for the two throng approach where they seek to transform the economy as a whole and also improve the livelihoods of households.

The President of IFAD, Kanayo F. Nwanze as is to be expected writes about the power of Agriculture. Many young people rush to the allure of ICT and forget about Agriculture but in Kenya we have seen young people who are merging the two and are really successful. My opinion is the land tenure system is one of main problem for the youths taking up agriculture. In many circumstances, young people do not own land and therefore they cannot invest in sustainable agricultural practices. However, on the grand scale we have seen the government of Kenya doing more irrigation projects in Arid and Semi-Arid areas. This shows that governments are putting their money where their mouth is.

Lastly, Adrienne Klasa writes about the need to redefine policy boundaries and goes ahead to quote Meles Zenawi the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the Africa and in the world and their model is somewhat similar to that of China. Many Economists are in agreement that in some areas Ethiopia seems to be getting some things right and as such it is time perhaps Africa decides what policy decisions to take and not necessarily take the Western development models.

I would encourage everyone to have a look at this report. This report can be accessed here
http://inclusiveeconomies.thisisafricaonline.com/?utm_source=microsite&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=IE

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

It is Infantile for the Tanzanian Government to Think Global and Act Local

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By Chris Nkwatsibwe

Biyi Bandele, a London-based African blogger had the following to say about Tanzania’s new education policy:

“Until every single mathematical theorem and every single theory in astrophysics and cosmology, and in medicine, and in chemistry, and in every single sphere of knowledge is written or available in translation in Kiswahili and Igbo and every other African language, I personally will always reject and abhor that easy [and easily comforting, xenophobic language] that dresses itself in the ultimately empty, and cheap, and hokey, and cheaply sentimental rhetoric of noble nationalism. I’ve been to Tanzania, and I’ve been to Zanzibar. And I’ve been to many countries in East Africa. What Tanzania needs now, what East Africa needs now, and what Africa needs now isn’t another instance of brainless, reflexive, macho posturing [which this is]. What we need, what we really need, is to have tens of thousands—millions—of our best minds, schooled not only in Swahili, Hausa, Xhosa, and Yoruba, and every major African language but also in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and in Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, Farsi, Chinese and Japanese, and in every single language on this little planet called earth, where knowledge—not just cheap, populist, propaganda—is disseminated.” -

I can’t agree more.

In my other opinion, to believe that in a globalized world where competition for relevance, human resource and investments is not only based on your ability to produce the best quality of product, but also the country’s ability to relate with other nations, that you will certainly breakthrough by domesticating and localizing the human resource is an absurdity of the highest order.

For Tanzania to change the medium of instruction in public schools from English to Kiswahili in a hope to elevate the level ‘passing’ or rather reduce the level of failing in the education system represents willingness by the government of Tanzania to settle for less. A close examination at the countries whose development, the government Tanzania aspires to reflects a need to review the new government paradigm. It is infantile for the Tanzanian government to think that the country will develop to a competitive level by closing itself away from the rest of the world.

Firstly, education is basically meant for developing human resource whose role in generating returns on human capital cannot be limited to carrying out production within the boundaries of Tanzania. The  new policy however would lead to production of a resource that may only find relevance in the east African community, and with the present spiraling levels of youth unemployment in the region, it still remains to be determined whether Tanzania would increase on the competitive advantage of her Nationals by ‘domesticating’ her education system.

Secondly, for any economy to develop there should be in increase in both the domestic and foreign savings of the country. This can be accumulated by Nationals working with in and or outside the boundaries of the country. More so, there should be an increase in a country’s exports inform of services and products. The new Tanzanian government policy fails on both fronts; her nationals’ competitiveness on foreign market would be limited due to the communication dilemma at the international level, this would definitely affect the country’s returns on her human capital whose opportunities would only mutate around the East African community.

The Tanzanian government should rather concentrate on building credible education system infrastructure that creates opportunities for talent identification and development to enhance innovation and creativity rather that incur the cost of amending the ‘instruction mode’. A more technical and vocational system will increase productivity and value addition.

Chris Nkwatsibwe is a Human Rights activist from Uganda

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Review: Foresight Africa Report by Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative

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Foresight Africa Cover | Brookings

The Foresight Africa report by Brookings Institution under their Africa Growth Initiative offers a snapshot of things to look out for in Africa this year. Out of the nine items which are featured in the report, seven have a bearing with the East Africa region or YLTP collective member’s countries.  These are;

An overview of the sixth Forum for Africa-China Cooperation or FOCAC expected to happen sometime later this year in South Africa, an analysis of how the west can do more militarily in Africa, a Pan-African view to Post-2015 Development Agenda, Financial Development in Africa – a crucial year, Reforming the African Union to increase effectiveness, a look at Obama administrations legacy in Africa – 2015 being a pivotal year and lastly a snapshot of presidential and legislative elections in Africa (with 5 countries from this region holding elections namely; Sudan – April, South Sudan – July, Ethiopia – May, Burundi – Mid 2015 and Tanzania – October with a referendum scheduled in April).

Perhaps to zero in on some of the above; I am particularly looking out to follow the FOCAC deliberations in South Africa this year. This meeting will come head over heels of the inaugural US-Africa Presidential Summit which was hosted by President Barack Obama last year. Some commentators cheekily observed the Chinese were closely observing that too and looking to overturn the gains US made last year! However, back to this report Yun Sun gives an excellent analysis, looking at previous FOCAC forums and inferring a pattern and extrapolating that to what one can look out for in this year’s Gig in South Africa.

As pointed out by Sun, this will be the first meeting on the new leadership in China. Also looking at my country, this will be President Kenyatta’s first FOCAC meeting. For any critical observer, one will notice Kenya has been more or less setting out the ground for the pet areas addressed by China – revival of key infrastructural projects both in the country and in the EAC region. It will be worthwhile to see how the new leaders in China will gel with the new crop of African leaders.

Most interesting is the realization by the west that they cannot compete with China in Africa and are thus we might see the rise of partnerships  between Western conglomerates and Chinese State entities doing business in Africa – this is highlighted under the chapter on Obama administrations legacy in Africa.

Mind you, if you are a Chinese watcher here is a speech by both President Zuma at Tsinghua University delivered in December 2014. Link: http://www.thepresidency.gov.za/pebble.asp?relid=18596

Michael O’Hanlon and Amy Copley address what the West can do more militarily in Africa. They visit some of the incidents that have taken place in Africa zeroing in Boko Haram in West Africa, terrorist attack in Westgate in Nairobi and security situation in the Horn of Africa. From their assessment the Africa Union has other regional bodies have a number of security apparatus that are not quite engaged when situations arise because of bureaucracy among other things.

Though the military ‘intervention’ by the West does pose some long term strategic questions especially with other actors also intervening militarily in the continent but this is not addressed by the authors of this chapter.

Mwangi S. Kaimenyi advocates for increased reforms at the African Union and gives tangible evidence why this is the path to take. Increasingly, the Africa Union is acting as the focal point of engagement with the continent but the organization is still staked in the old ways of doing things. The author goes ahead to give practical ways in which the Union should undertake in 2015.

The quintessential segment of this report is the one on African Election 2015. Two of the countries analyzed are from this region i.e. Tanzania and Sudan.

This report is highly recommended – that is if you have not had a chance of reading it.

Link to the full report [pdf]

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES.

Budget Speeches in East Africa

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Recently, the EAC countries have published their 2014/2015 budgets. All countries plan to focus on infrastructure development and local trade and business promotion.

In Rwanda, the government plans to spend RwF 1.75 trillion in the upcoming fiscal year. 38% of the budget, which is themed “Infrastructure development to accelerate export growth”,  is funded through external loans and grants. Priority areas of the budget include energy, agriculture, export promotion, urbanization & rural settlement, employment programs & skills development including TVET, social protection and promotion of green economy. 10% of the budget will be spent to promote productivity and youth employment. The budget is projected to close with an overall deficit of RwF 177.2 billion.

The Ugandan government is also emphasizing investment in the infrastructure sector, planning to spend Shs 75 billion of its total budget of UgSh 14 trillion for road construction and rehabilitation. The strategy is built on four key interventions: improving the business climate through infrastructure investment while maintaining peace, security and macro-economic stability; leveraging government assistance for the agricultural sector, tourism, industries and services;  improving education, health services  and access to water; strengthening institutional governance, accountability and transparency. Of the total budget, UgSh10.1 trillion will come from domestic revenues. The projected deficit amounts to 821 billion UgSh.

Kenya presented the biggest budget in the region (Ksh 1.77 trillion), focusing on infrastructure development, security, the promotion of commercial agriculture, entrepreneurship and a conducive business environment, education, health services, social protection. 86.3 % of the presented budget will be covered by domestic revenues. The largest share of the budget goes to education (27.3%), followed by energy, infrastructure and ICTs (22,6%). Health and agriculture/ rural and urban development have only been allocated about 5 % of the budget respectively. The predicted deficit equals about 342.4 billion Ksh.

Tanzania announced a TzSh19.5 trillion budget for the 2014/15 financial year, aiming to improve people’s lives and expand infrastructure. The government intends to reduce the cost of living and tax exemptions; improve social services, roads, access to energy, irrigation; create employment opportunities and enhance good governance. The biggest chunk of the budget goes to education (3.456 trillion), followed by transportation infrastructure (2.109 trillion) and health (1.588 trillion). Yet, compared to the previous fiscal year, the budget for the health sector has been cut by approximately 22% and the education budget by appr. 5 %. About 15 % of the budget will be covered by external grants and concessional loans. The predicted deficit equals about 3.8 trillion TzSh.

(Burundi’s budget reading is not aligned with the other EAC members’ readings.)

What do you think of the budget planning of the governments? Are they setting the right priorities? Are there any particular sectors that should receive more funding?

The UN Member States had committed to reach the following Millennium Development Goals by 2015:

  1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. To achieve universal primary education
  3. To promote gender equality and empower women
  4. To reduce child mortality
  5. To improve maternal health
  6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. To ensure environmental sustainability
  8. To develop a global partnership for development.

Do you think their budget planning will allow the EAC countries to get closer to achieving these goals?

All countries are expected to close their budget with a high deficit. Do you think this is necessary to invest in  future development or are governments taking too many risks and making their countries even more vulnerable and dependent on foreign sources of funding?

***************************** Let us debate *****************************************

Sources:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201406130290.html

http://www.statehouse.go.ug/media/news/2014/06/12/budget-speech-financial-year-201415-delivered-meeting-4th-session-9th-parliame

http://www.statehouse.go.ug/media/news/2014/06/12/20142015-budget-poised-boost-infrastructure-sector

http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/magazine/success/education-budget/-/1843788/2351536/-/2kmmi3/-/index.html

http://www.minecofin.gov.rw/index.php?id=123&tx_ttnews[year]=2014&tx_ttnews[month]=06&tx_ttnews[day]=12&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=242&cHash=8f8d32ff9d2568da897550cab75da857

http://www.treasury.go.ke/index.php/resource-center/cat_view/79-budget-/144-budget-2014