Big Barrier: Youth unemployment at the coast

In Kenya, 80 per cent of the unemployed are believed to be below the age of 35. The rate of unemployment in Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city and home to the region’s largest port, is estimated to be 44 per cent. The Kuza project’s definition of unemployment includes those earning less than KES 10,000 (USD 100) per month. This raises concerns of how the Kenyan coast will be able to harness its potential if the labour market is unable to absorb rapidly increasing numbers of young workers. 

On 8 December 2016, the Rift Valley Forum, in partnership with Adam Smith International and the Kuza Project, hosted a public forum to discuss drivers and solutions to youth unemployment at the coast. Participants included academics, people working in the field, youth, representatives from County Government and business partners. 

The forum aimed to expand the space for discussions about policy and uncover what can be done to make partnerships a transformational tool for development. With the coast becoming a major commercial and trading hub, as well as an area of major investment and infrastructure, the forum looked at how various partnerships could be brokered by the County Government to ensure that local youth benefit from the opportunities created. 

Panellists were keen to provide the many young people at the forum with the inspiration and confidence to improve their situations. For some young members of the audience, however, the onus on the individual to be pro-active risked underplaying entrenched structural barriers.