Whoever has a spoon will not be burned. This Wolof proverb rings true for Kenya’s joblessness predicament. Wolof is Senegal’s national language.
Unemployment is burning Kenya. According to the Federation of Kenya Employers, Youth aged between 15 and 34 year old, have the highest unemployment rate of 67 percent. We must therefore do everything possible to put out this fire of chronic unemployment amongst our young people.
The diaspora spoon can greatly help us to reduce unemployment and protect us from the third degree burns of chronic youth unemployment.
The ministry of foreign affairs estimates that approximately 3 million Kenyans live and work abroad. Every month, they remit billions back home.
According to the Central Bank of Kenya, diaspora remittances last month in July were Sh58.4 billion. One month earlier in June, they stood at Sh50.1 billion. For comparisons sake, horticultural export revenue for the entire year of 2022 was Sh159.5 billion. Clearly, diaspora remittances inject critical billions into our economy. These remittances boost employment in job-intensive sectors like: Entrepreneurship; construction and farming.
Evidently, there is a clear linkage between labor export and local employment. This is what drove Judy Jepchirchir, the embattled employment agency boss, and a Ph.D. Student in strategic Management, to successfully facilitate the labor export of 7,000 Kenyans into Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Poland and United Kingdom. Some of these 7,000 Kenyans are from my Ukambani backyard. They are already boosting the livelihoods of about 70,000 members of their families back home through remittances. Herein lies the power of labor export.
We therefore need to drastically step up legal, financially rewarding labor export. Why should seven out of ten youth in Kenya be mired in unemployment yet jobs abound across the world? Labor export will grant them an opportunity to secure decent, well-paying jobs that will create jobs back home through their remittances.
Back in May, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Kenya and signed an agreement with President Ruto. That agreement opened the door for 250,000 professional, skilled and semi-skilled Kenyans to secure employment in Germany. These German jobs will increase remittances substantially, further boosting job opportunities in Kenya.
Against this backdrop, I suggest that Government agencies should deliberately seek to understand the challenges faced by employment agencies and support them to secure millions of jobs because evidently such jobs exist out there. If such agencies are operating within a legal framework they should be feted, not faulted, or cheaply politicized for selfish interests. At the same time agencies or individuals mistreating Kenyans in this space must be thoroughly punished without fear or favor.
Internationally, there are legislative frameworks that regulate and guide labor export and import. Amongst them are the bilateral labour migration agreements. They refer to cooperation frameworks between countries of origin and destination. The Ministries of Labor and Foreign affairs should focus on signing many bilateral labor agreements to pave way for millions of jobs.
Incidentally, lucrative employment opportunities are opening right here in Africa. Diaspora remittances from African countries to Kenya grew by 42 percent in the seven months leading to July. During this period, Kenyans in other African countries wired Sh22.2 billion into the country. Uganda and Zambia are amongst lush employment pastures for Kenyans. Relevant agencies therefore must also focus on jobs within our region.
Indeed, Kenya needs a profound Labor Export Acceleration program as a vehicle of stabilizing our dwindling economy. If we do this, it will be possible to increase diaspora remittances by a Trillion Kshs. That would truly galvanize our economy and create thousands of decent jobs on a monthly basis.
To ensure a self-replenishing labor pool, experts must develop a witty integration system for those who have been out of the country to transfer skills and expertise. That way, we will be able to supply the foreign and local labor market with a skilled workforce whose multiplied remittances will create even more jobs! Think green, act green.