By Harrison Ikunda
One of my painful moments in life is when confronted with so many needy cases where I have little or nothing I can do or offer. Each week I get requests for employment from friends for their own children or relatives. And each week is a nightmare of being unable to help a person who wants to get some financial independence and willing to work but opportunities are lacking.
At times it gets into my mind that there is too much suffering. It’s never easy especially if you live in poor parts of the world.
I grew up when Kenyan economy was slower than the demands for jobs in the 1980s and the 1990s. It also coincided with difficult political moments in the country when the then KANU regime was also growing increasingly intolerant to any change but luckily the global political changes were not in its favour, especially with the fall of the then USSR and the communist/socialist dictatorship in late 1980s that had a stranglehold on especially countries in Eastern Europe. The West especially USA was not in any mood to keep propping or protecting any regime especially those with dictatorial tendencies after the end of the cold war. Change had to come and it did.
While I was schooling at that period, I would face the spite or snide remarks like we were schooling and getting degrees en route to unemployment as hopes of getting jobs were also thinning by the day.
Population growth was unmatched by the ability to create jobs in the country. With Kenya tradition woes of corruption strangling the economy and politics, it was not as promising at all. At one time while visiting someone older than me who was doing well in the informal sector, he snidely said that people are busy studying for degrees and wondered where we were headed to.
I did politely respond that while we had heard for years that Nigerians had acquired so many degrees and unemployment in Nigeria was a big problem, we had not seen their government there closing down universities or higher education despite the challenges. People were still pulling through despite the problems there. I optimistically said there is always a way for human beings to keep innovating and thus could not just give up on education.
When we moved on to the world of work many of us still found ourselves in formal employment especially in the private sector.
While my age group grew up there was little to do or even sense about mobile telephony. Today, one has to acknowledge transformation that has happened especially with regard to impacts of rapid changes in technology. Mobile telephony is currently a norm or part of life. Mobile phones are an essential part of life today. While we grew there were no mobile money transfer services like Mpesa. Emails and social media or even internet generally was unheard of. Today WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and YouTube are like basic needs as they make communication, interaction, commerce, political and social engagements and even professional pursuits easy.
Today I find so many young people even working for foreign companies or organisations while still on the Kenyan soil. Some even work from their living rooms. What I’m alluding to? Even with the dark clouds of unemployment there are still enablers and new ways of creating jobs and commercial opportunities are growing.
In the past there was no technology to rely on unlike now where one can get an idea on job search online. Unlike today we lived in a lesser open society. Today I’m not in any way saying things are so better. Obviously those in the know will tell you our economic development has been outmatched by the needs of a rapidly growing population.
Our economic development has been far outpaced by our needs for growth. China in the past was poor has has grown fast economically yet we have not found the full ‘magic’ to fix our economy and still encumbered by retrogressive and destructive habits like corruption.
This also happening when a dangerous phenomenon of climate change is busy decimating the world. and Kenya or any nation for that is not spared. I was doing some research on agriculture output for some crops like maize in Central Kenya and in parts of Kajiado lately. Unlike in the past the yields are much lower per acreage and crops more prone to varieties of diseases. Animals like chicken and cows are also afflicted. Today many crops need varieties of chemicals and models of science to thrive unlike before. Climate change is rapidly causing trouble unnoticed in many cases. Yet still when looked closely even Covid-19 and its various variants will be seen to likely have linkages to climate change.
On jobs, the government needs to be keenly aware that we have a lot to do to sustain a healthy population now and in future. When we grow an army of frustrated people we are creating a bad future for all of us.
The Writer is a Political, Economic and Social Analyst and Commentator.