Kenya is facing serious unemployment and underemployment challenges. According to the 2017 Human Development Index (HDI) report by the United Nations, unemployment in Kenya, which stands at 40 per cent, is one of the greatest challenges in the country. The challenge is even made worse by the fact that 80 per cent of unemployed Kenyans are below the age of 35 years.

The report also reckons that Kenya has the lowest employment rate in East African in that 39.1 per cent of the Kenyan population of working age is unemployed compared to Tanzania’s 24 per cent, Ethiopia’s 21.6 percent, Uganda’s 18.1 per cent and Rwanda’s 17.1 per cent. “While Kenya has shown progress in promotion of human development in improving access to education, health and sanitation, with more people rising out of extreme poverty, several groups remain disadvantaged,” notes the report.

The good news, however, is that the government has been implementing policies to create jobs. Due to various initiatives in line with Kenya’s long term development blueprint, the Vision 2030, the government has created some 2.3 million new jobs since 2013. These jobs have been created as a result of the government laying a very strong foundation for industrialization through a solid economic transformation agenda.

To address the nagging challenge of unemployment in Kenya, the Ministry of East Africa Community, Labour & Social Protection recently unveiled a comprehensive platform, the Kenya Labour Market Information System (KLMIS) that will be a web portal providing a one-stop shop for labour market information (LMI). Its main objective will be to serve as an observatory for LMI for the Kenyan economy.

“This is the first-ever labour market information system in Kenya providing reliable and timely information. It links industry with academia and shall guide human resources policy-making, design and implementation for better allocation of the appropriate skills to meet market needs and thus avoid mismatch,” said Phylis Kandie, Cabinet Secretary East Africa Community, Labour & Social Protection when she launched the portal.

LMI is an essential component in helping generate, update and disseminate knowledge on current and future skills needs. Public employment services play a critical role in providing career guidance, vocational counseling and access to training and job-matching services. Private employment agencies also play an increasingly important role in matching workers to training and jobs, and improving labour market functions.

Essentially, LMI is any quantitative and qualitative information on situations and trends of labour demand and labour supply, information that directly or indirectly supports the efficient and effective operation of the market and, information that matches the labour market demand with labour market supply and information on factors causing distortions in the labour market.

According to Kandie the development of a comprehensive LMI system is one of the flagships of Vision 2030 with the KLMIS taking a multi-sectoral approach that has involved all labour sector interested parties in its compilation. KLMIS fits well with the Vision 2030 2nd medium term plan focusing on the availability of critical skills for driving industrial growth.

“A high quality, reliable and easily accessible human resource data base is critical for guiding planning and allocation for different sectors of the economy. With reliable data base, the shortage of human capital in sectors such as engineering and medicine among others can be tackled through proper planning and better focus on the requisite training,” added Kandie.

With its main objectives being to serve as a labour market observatory and intelligence or watchtower vehicle for the economy through providing timely, relevant and reliable information, it is expected to benefit job seekers, volunteers and volunteers involving  organizations (VIOs) , students, parents, individual citizens, investors, employers and employees, the government and private sector policy-makers, and educational and training institutions.  
KLMIS will provide the necessary information to guide on career choices for students, teachers, parents and other individuals who need to make decisions on what occupations to go into or what training to undertake based on the labour market information available.

For investors, the portal will provide regular updates on manpower trends in the labour market to guide their investment decisions in light of the available skill types and levels, alternative technologies as well as wage levels among other dynamics. Employees will benefit with valuable information on training opportunities, career progression, prospects for better employment and empowerment on labour matters as provided in various labour laws.  

For educational and training institutions, KLMIS will provide information on the career requirements, manpower trends and also provide regular updates on job opportunities available across various economic sectors. For volunteers and VIOs, the portal will provide link for both volunteers willing to offer their time, skills and resources and VIOs who need the services of volunteers.

Besides, the system will maintain a database  of all legitimate VIOs who have met the requirements of engaging volunteers hence promote efficient, effective management and coordination of volunteerism. The system will also show the demand and supply of volunteers, thus help to analyse and quantify the contributions made by volunteers to the economy. This will inevitably contribute to enhanced opportunities for the youth to enrich their CVs for enhanced employability.

KLMIS is also useful to the government because policy makers and planners in government and its agencies require reliable and up-to-date LMI for effective manpower planning, development and utilisation. The information will facilitate skill development that is aligned to labour market demands and enable forecasting of future manpower needs for the country.

In launching KLMIS, Kenya joins other countries which have the system following the realization that bad job matching poses problems for the growth of an economy. This is because the productivity of a worker and thereby of a company is reduced if the worker’s skills are not the ones needed for the job he is exercising or his level of education and training is too low to perform well. Beside, people with high skills who are only able to find low skilled jobs are equally less productive, as they are in a way under-employed. It is for this reason that better quality matches do not only lead to higher productivity but also tend to increase the worker’s and employer’s satisfaction.

According to research, LMI plays a significant role in enhancing productivity. By informing students, unemployed and workers about new professions and the skills required to exercise them, the labour supply side is informed about the requirements and changes of requirements of the labour supply side. LMI also provide information about vocational training possibilities and qualification programs.

Additionally, it can provide counseling to help people to find out their individual professional profile so that they may chose professions according to their skills and preferences. This service has an important impact on work satisfaction and by this on labour turnover, productivity and the reduction of unemployment.

Essentially, KLMIS contents include sections on popular jobs in the country, skills supply & demand, training institutions & programmes on offer, key labour market indicators namely employment & unemployment rates, labour market services critical for career development & foreign employment and government employment promotion initiatives. Its data sources include survey results and statistics from government ministries & departments and all agencies dealing in labour matters and related interested parties such as trade unions, the international labour organization (ILO) and training institutions and employers among many others.  Moreover, the system is divided into five sections namely; labour demand, supply, market surveillance & resources, training and registration.

“This is free of charge, timely and accurate labour market platform that is linked to all labour market sites and which offers comprehensive and updated information courtesy of memorandum of understiandings with various government departments. Apart from offering job advertisements, it shall enable job-seekers to upload CVs to allow employers to vet for suitable candidates,” Kandie explained.

She added that the government has been, in the last four years, strengthening key economic pillars such as in education, ICT, energy and transport and related infrastructure among others with an aim of creating 1.3 million jobs by end of this year.

KLMIS will help to reduce the information deficit on the labour market so that the labour market can work better. This is because it will have a positive impact on the information flow within the labour market by collecting, evaluating and providing information to all parties in the labour market. By providing information, it will directly lead in improving the labour market functions.

Besides, by providing information it will help also tackle the challenge of unemployment, ensure career choice is not based only on interest but also on demand for labour and lead in increase in productivity as it will allow more people make the right job choices and companies to get the right workers.
In the medium and long run, KLMIS will help reduce structural unemployment of the occupational type that arises when there is a mismatch between skills demanded and skills supplied by providing information about the changing labour demand and the new skills required by new industries or service companies. It will also help reduce the cost of acquiring information about training programs and the evaluation of individual job profiles because they will be available online.

The launch of KLMIS could not have come at a more opportune moment considering the fact that the government is pushing for a mindset shift in terms of appreciating vocational training. Providing information on vocational training possibilities like courses offered by public or private training organizations is therefore an important function of the LMIS.

This type of service is usually aimed at young adults and all individuals wishing to enter the labour market for the first time. But sometimes also workers who were occupied before in professions that are not requested anymore wish to restart their career in a completely different professional field and need information on vocational training. Next to the general information on professions, young people and newcomers will need special information on how to enter the labor market.

Stakeholders in the country agree that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) has the potential to be a gamechanger in tackling the challenge of unemployment. The TVET Act 2013 was designed to address the job skills issue and, more so, to ensure an increased and sustained enrolment ratio of 20 per cent by the year 2030.

It is for this reason the government has been implementing reforms to transform the TVET sector to ensure it plays a vital role in developing the skills which are needed to improve output, quality, variety and occupational safety, thus increasing incomes and livelihoods. This is because there is a link between poverty reduction, skills training, increased growth, productivity and innovation.

Coming when the government is implementing reforms not only on TVETs but also on the entire education system, KLMIS will provide information on available training opportunities such as courses offered by public or private training institutions, level of training and cost of training, duration of training and even location of various training institutions. This service is useful for young adults and all individuals wishing to enter the labour market for the first time. It is also useful for those already engaged in labour market but wish to change or advance their careers.

According to Kandie, the dearth of quality and reliable labour sector data has remained a huge challenge that has led to a mismatch between manpower demand and supply. “Unfortunately as well, the country’s education and training programmes have often been driven by social concerns such as prestige and peer pressure leading to preference for some courses without due regards to economic demands,” she regretted. Consequently, many colleges and university graduates have not been able to secure jobs while many specialized jobs have lacked personnel.

KLMIS will remain interactive between employers and those seeking new jobs or job change and others in the labour and employment space. “At county levels, we shall ensure that continuous registration of job-seekers and job opportunities is maintained. The platform shall also complement the work of government employment agencies including the Public Service Commission, Parliamentary Service Commission, Teachers Service Commission and Judiciary Service Commission among others,” Kandie assured.

“Though expected to be a game changer in the labour market sector through better analysis of labour market management and related policies and issues, and in facilitating timely and effective use of human resources, it shall require the co-operation of all teams and interested parties whose commitment in loading and use of the data is what shall drive the difference,” averred Kandie.

She was delighted to realize that youths shall be linked to the available jobs more effectively and efficiently while training institutions shall more effectively adapt to the labour market needs and demands. “Foreign direct investors shall also easily identify talent while the planning, development and utilization of human capital shall be more effective. Planning for career development guided by need shall drive the economy better,” concluded Kandie.

Mr President; The Media is NOT an Enemy

Mr President; The Media is NOT an Enemy

Since time immemorial, the relationship between the state and the media has always been one of love hate. In times when the media is perceived to dance to the tune of the state, the relationship is love. But if the media is somehow seen to be anti-establishment, the relationship is hate.In Kenya, this also plays out but more often than not the relationship between the Kenyan media and the state is that of hate. Consecutive governments since independence have always viewed the mainstream media with contempt. To the government of the day, the belief is that the mainstream media is always anti-establishment and pro-opposition.Tragically, the Kenyan media is dominated by three main daily newspapers in terms of readership and around five television channels in terms of viewership. About 10 radio stations compete for listenership. Because these few dominate the media scene, they are the cause the government of the day loathes the media to a point where both the president and his deputy believe newspapers are only useful when wrapping meat.But Mr President, we want to remind you the Kenyan media is much bigger than your few perceived enemies. When you isolate the mainstream media, there is a big media industry that serves niche markets and employs hundreds of Kenyans. The alternative media, which include business, lifestyle and sports magazines, community-based radio and TV stations and others, are mediums that communicate to millions of Kenyans by addressing specific needs of their audiences.SMEs Today Magazine, for instance, is a monthly publication that is committed to identifying small and medium enterprises and giving them a platform to share their successes, challenges and aspirations. In doing so, the publication helps to drive the growth of the SMEs sector which with no doubt is the cog of the economy. For the government, thus, to brandish the whole media industry as anti-establishment and decided to starve it of advertising support is, to say the least, unfortunate. The decision by the government to establish a weekly publication called MyGov and direct all ministries, departments and agencies to only advertise through MyGov was the worst. While the justification was to save revenue, with the covert intention being to punish mainstream media for their so-called anti-government conspiracy, the reality is that the directive is killing responsible alternative media like SMEs Today Magazine. Without advertising support from the government, its ministries, departments and agencies, this publication and its peers are struggling to survive.Mr President, MyGov is not hurting the perceived enemies which ironically are getting paid for distributing the publication. To the contrary, it is killing responsible publications serving niche markets and playing a crucial role in the development of this country. This is not a call for the abolishment of MyGov. This is a plea that just as the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua issued a directive that all government advertising should be done through MyGov, he should issue another directive telling ministries, departments and agencies they are free to support alternative media like SMEs Today Magazine.…

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Ten years of illuminating SMEs

Ten years of illuminating SMEs

Ten years ago, the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) sector did not feature prominently in the Kenya’s national psyche. While it was obvious the sector contributed significantly to the economy, particularly in job creation, the government and even the private sector was less concerned at its existence.This was evident from the fact that the government was less bothered in enacting laws and policies to drive its growth and unleash its full potentials. Besides, commercial banks projected indifference in terms of extending credit to the sector, something that impeded growth of many MSMEs.But 10 years ago, March 2007 to be specific, SMEs Today set out on a mission of being the voice of MSMEs by propagating their issues, lobbying policy makers to create an environment conducive for their growth and celebrating their successes.  When the first issue of SMEs Today hit the newsstands, few took notice with the common assumption in the publishing industry being that here is yet another business magazine that has launched with pomp and colour but will soon fold like many others before it. This perception got credence on the argument that being a publication targeting MSMEs, a neglected sector, advertising support would be non-existent because MSMEs did not have advertising budgets. Besides, they also argued that launching as a monthly publication was utterly over-ambitious.Unknown to them, the people behind the publication had a mission to redirect MSMEs from the periphery to the high table of the country’s development agenda. Indeed due to this mission, the government, commercial banks and other stakeholders soon started taking notice of the sector.The results are evident. Top on the list was the decision by the government to enact the Micro and Small Enterprises Act, 2012. The act gave birth to authority whose mandate is to formulate and review policies and programmes, promote and develop MSE sector, monitor and evaluate implementation policies, programmes and activities related to MSE development. Apart from the government, commercial banks also realized the sector was critical for their growth and one after the other they established departments and sections dedicated to serving the sector. Other institutions have also followed suit coming up with products and services directed at serving the needs of MSMEs.In the 10 years that SMEs Today magazine has been in the market, consistently producing an issue every month with content specifically designed to scale the heights of businesses, MSMEs have been the key beneficiaries. This is because over the past decade the publication has offered them a platform to propagate their issues.This March, SMEs Today magazine is celebrating 10 years, a period that has been both exciting and challenging. But despite the changing seasons, we have kept the promise of ensuring that MSMEs are today at the pinnacle of the country’s development. As we embark on the journey of our second decade, we promise to keep the fire of MSMEs burning as we see them grow to large corporations.

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Adios 2016, Welcome 2017

Adios 2016, Welcome 2017

The end of the year is always a time to reflect on the year that was and set plans for the coming year. In most cases, it is a time to look back on events that shaped and defined the year and also reflect on the achievements and failures. It is also a time to lay down the priorities for the coming year.In the business world, 2016 was in many ways a bad year. Forget the declaration by the government about how the Kenyan economy maintained a steady growth of 6.1 per cent. If anything, the growth was nothing but superficial if the realities that defined the business environment were anything to go by.From large companies, to medium enterprises down to micro businesses, the tagline in 2016 has been of struggle to maintain profitability and struggle to remain afloat. For big companies, restructuring, downsizing and relocating to other countries was the order of the year. In the process, at least 10,000 Kenyans working for big companies lost their jobs.In the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMES), the situation was even worse. Delayed payments (the government being the worst culprit), lack of financing and competition caused the death of many MSMEs. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the high mortality of MSMEs played out in a big way. In the process, more Kenyans found themselves jobless.The job crisis witnessed in 2016 should serve as warning bells for the government. Already Kenya is battling an unemployment problem  which stands at 46 per cent. For the country to lose more jobs because companies are feeling the pressure of a tough environment is quite unfortunate. It is for this reason that the government needs to relook at policies to arrest the situation. One area to start with is to ensure the government and its agencies pay suppliers with whom it does business promptly.With 2016 ending on gloom for the business community, many would have looked into 2017 with optimism. Unfortunately, pessimism is in the minds of many. Being an election year, business leaders have little to cheer about. In fact, many are not even strategising on business revival but are crafting ideas on how to shield their enterprises from the negative effects of the electioneering period, both prior and after.In 2017, the country is definitely going to be engulfed in the election mood, with anxiety being the new normal for both individuals and companies. As a publication that puts the stability and welfare of Kenya at the heart of our operations, our hope is that despite the divisions and fallouts expected, Kenya will emerge from the 2017 elections standing tall and the echoes of our national anthem ‘May we dwell in unity, peace and liberty’, will be ringing in every Kenyan’s mind. 

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Finally, tangible data on MSMEs

Finally, tangible data on MSMEs

The micro, small and medium enterprise (MSMEs) sector is an important cog in the country’s economy. The sector not only accounts for majority of the enterprises in the country but is also the key source of employment opportunities for majority of Kenyans. Despite its importance, the sector has always remained extremely fragmented. This has made it impossible to really differentiate the diverse nature and levels of MSMEs. In fact, due to lack of tangible data, understanding the sector has been nothing short of impossible.This explains why different organisations that deal with MSMEs are forced to come up with their own definition on what constitute an MSME in line with the sort of engagement they want to pursue. This state of affairs often put the MSMEs at a disadvantage because more often than not they are forced to align themselves with the definition of the organization.It is for this reason that we feel the need to applaud and commend the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) for undertaking a comprehensive survey on the MSMEs sector in order for the country to understand the status of the sector. The survey, which was released in September, provides comprehensive data, at national and county levels, on the characteristics, operations, dynamics and evolving nature of MSMEs in Kenya. Some of the critical things the survey has done is to avail tangible data on MSMEs on issues like clear definition of MSMEs, number of jobs the sector creates, ownership, contribution to the economy, financing, innovation, challenges, rate of mortality among others. In a nutshell, the survey is a one-stop-shop for credible information regarding MSMEs.Going by the importance of the MSMEs sector, it was quite a prudent decision by KNBS to carry out the survey and come up with the report. The benefits are enormous because the government now has reliable data on the state of the sector which will act as a guide when it comes to policy formulation on issues affecting MSMEs.More importantly, other stakeholders like large corporations that do business with MSMEs, commercial banks and other lenders, non-governmental organization, foreign companies and even donors will now have information that is credible on the sector and which will help them make informed decisions while engaging with MSMEs.The report is particularly important for commercial banks and other lenders like microfinance institutions that are critical partners of MSMEs in their growth journey. There is no denying that access to finance is one of the major challenges facing the sector. Thus, with tangible data lenders will be in a position to make informed decisions on different levels of MSMEs and know how to help them grow.It is our hope that all stakeholders will utilise the finds of the survey in order to push the growth of the MSMEs sector and ensure it remains an important pillar of the economy.

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Oil Petrodollars; Waiting for Godot

Oil Petrodollars; Waiting for Godot

When Samuel Beckett wrote the masterpiece play entitled ‘Waiting for Godot’, he never anticipated how relevant the theme would be years later. Beckett penned the play in the early 1950s and over six decades later the story line still applies in modern day world. Today, Kenyans find themselves in a peculiar scenario of having to wait for Godot. Since British firm Tullow Oil discovered oil in Turkana, northern Kenya in 2012, anticipation has been ripe that Kenya is on the verge of a windfall from petrodollars.

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Safeguard EAC Integration

Safeguard EAC Integration

The ground on which the East Africa Community (EAC) stands has for a long time been shaky. Now, the shaking is fast mutating to tremors and soon enough it could become a full blown earthquake if the rivalries being witnessed among member states are not arrested. By all accounts, the revival of the EAC in 2000 after the original club collapsed in 1977 was heralded as the best thing in efforts of integrating the economies of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and later Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. A decade and a half later, there is much progress and a lot to be proud of in as far as creating a big economic bloc is concerned.

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Real Estate Developers must keep Promises

Real Estate Developers must keep Promises

It is a dream of every Kenyan to live in a gated community with all the amenities that proclaim ‘life is sweet’. In fact, every Kenyan who can be classified as falling in the middle class bracket harbours a dream of living in a modern house located in a serene and quiet neighbourhood. The dream becomes even more fantasizing if the gated community has a golf course. Having probably studied by the psychology of the typical Kenyan middle class, which is characterised with consumerism and living life on the first lane, real estate developers have found a market to exploit to the fullest.

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Welcome back, Chase Bank

Welcome back, Chase Bank

One cardinal rule that students of journalism are taught is that as a journalist, your emotions must always be detached from the subject of your story. In other words, if for instance you are sent to cover the Huruma disaster, duty demands that you should not project an iota of emotions despite being a witness to devastation, pain and death. Being human, adhering to this rule has often proved futile for many journalists.

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Regulators – Time to Act

Regulators – Time to Act

There has been an existing fundamental flaw with different regulatory bodies in the country – a penchant to bury their heads on the sand while those they are supposed to regulate have a field day and run riots.In terms of regulatory bodies, Kenya is a highly regulated country. There are tens of regulators overseeing various sectors and industries.

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Ag CEO, the new Order

Ag CEO, the new Order

Being the head of a parastatal in Kenya is probably one of the most insecure jobs that one would wish for. That notwithstanding, the number of people applying for any vacant parastatal job, particularly in the so called strategic state corporations, shows there is something lucrative about the job. A case in point is the fact that a total of 120 individuals applied for the position of Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) managing director when it was advertised in November only to be terminated mid-stream and re-advertised again.

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Blockbusters 2016 – Politics, Corruption and Economy

Blockbusters 2016 – Politics, Corruption and Economy

Before the release of any movie or blockbuster production, producers always release a trailer well in advance to arise the anticipation of audiences and give them a sneak preview of what to expect. The trailers, as a rule, capture the most captivating, exciting and thrilling scenes and are designed to make audiences eagerly wait for the official release. In Kenya, 2016 is just unfolding and the trailers of the blockbusters that will characterise the year have already been released. The camping of President Kenyatta in the coastal region for the better part of January, which the opposition Cord described as nothing but a vote hunting foray, is one trailer preparing Kenyans for an epic political duel in 2016 pitting the Jubilee Alliance coalition and Cord.

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