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The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment is unlocking potential of Kenya’s youth | News item

The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) seeks to address the great challenge of youth unemployment in Kenya to ensure the potential of youth to contribute to sustainable and inclusive development and economic. Beatrice Gichohi, country lead for CFYE Kenya, says this project is crucial in the Kenyan context. 


Image: ©Dutch embassy Kenya
Group picture from a learning event of the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment.

Kenya is facing a youth bulge: 75% of the Kenyan population is aged below 35 years old. This presents both an opportunity and a threat. It is a huge opportunity in terms of production and service delivery. However, for this opportunity to materialize, it needs concerted efforts and targeted investments. At the moment, it is estimated that youth unemployment in Kenya is as high as 35% (4.5 million young men and women), compared to the overall national unemployment rate of 10%.

What is the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment all about?

The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment is a 7-year project that the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs funds. The fund is managed by a consortium of three organizations: Palladium, VSO, and Randstad.

The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment aims to support robust and innovative ideas for creating or improving decent work prospects for youth, especially young women. For this program, youth is defined as adults between 15-35. Over the next seven years, CFYE will work with selected Implementing Partners across the Middle East, North Africa, Sahel/West Africa, and the Horn of Africa to tackle the challenge of youth underemployment and unemployment in these regions. The fund works with private sector organizations to ensure the sustainability of the solutions generated.

Beatrice Gichohi, country lead for CFYE Kenya, answers questions about the Fund.

And why is this Fund so important in the Kenyan context?

“The largest population of Kenyans falls under the youth bracket, and Kenya is one of the countries experiencing a youth bulge. Unemployment rates in Kenya are higher among the youth than the rest, and this is even worse among women, who are disproportionately represented. Given that more than one million graduates annually continue to add to the number of unemployed youth, this project is crucial in addressing the issue of unemployment.

As women are overrepresented in unemployment numbers, CFYE is making deliberate efforts to ensure that they reach women through the fund. Before each call, an market scan is done to determine where opportunities for youth and specifically women lie. This market scan informs the call for applications.”

A new call for applications has just closed. What is the focus of this call?

“In Kenya, CFYE has held two challenge calls, resulting in the selection of 17 implementing partners. CFYE has focused on Green jobs, digital business development services, and the Creative sector for the past two calls. This has primarily aligned with the Embassy aspirations in Kenya, specifically for this third call, which looks at the Health, Energy, and Agro-processing sectors. This third and final call for solutions focuses on organizations in digital health, renewable energy, agro-logistics, and agro-processing sectors.”

You have been active in this space for quite some time. In your experience, what are the greatest challenges facing young people looking to enter the job market?

“While doing the CFYE project design, a scoping exercise was carried out to help understand the employment gaps and potential sectors of focus. From the scoping report, the most significant challenges facing young people who are looking to enter into the job market include:

  • The skills gap: there is a mismatch between the youth’s skills and what the industry seeks.
  • Limited job opportunities: Kenya’s economy does not produce enough jobs annually. This results in an increased number of youths who are unemployed since the economy is only able to absorb a few.
  • Lack of entrepreneurial skills and capital: most youths do not have the right skills to start their businesses and create self-employment. Where they have the skills, they lack in capital required to start their ventures due to a lack of collateral and other requirements by financial institutions.
  • Lack of or limited networks: most of the youth do not have meaningful and resourceful networks that can link them to organizations or other economic opportunities.
  • Barriers for women: these include mobility due to family commitments, family chores and childcare responsibilities, and access to collateral (with limited rights to own property).”

What role do you see for the Dutch business community do to help overcome such challenges?

“The Dutch business community can leverage their knowledge and technologies through partnerships with MSMEs in Kenya, to stimulate growth and market. Another way to support is to engage in technical forums that address youth employment issues. Finally, they can offer opportunities for youth themselves, whether it is through mentorship, internships or by making sure their investments in Kenya create jobs for Kenyan youth.”

https://www.netherlandsandyou.nl/latest-news/news/2023/09/12/challenge-fund-for-youth-employment The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment is unlocking potential of Kenya’s youth | News item

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