Young entrepreneurs urged to be innovative
Increasing failure of businesses started by youth immediately after graduating from universities and middle level colleges in the country is worrying stakeholders who are now calling for quick solutions before the situation worsens.
Youth in business and entrepreneurship experts are warning the growing level of joblessness is a time bomb that requires quick action before it gets out of hand.
“Despite a positive response by the government and stakeholders in terms of creating financial opportunities, youth are still grappling with a bigger challenge of low business survival,” said Kimanthi Muriuki, a young entrepreneur based in Ruiru, Kiambu County.
Data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates that youth unemployment rate reached 13.84 per cent in 2021, accounting for a 108 per cent increase compared to 6.65 per cent by December 31, 1999.
Zetech University vice chancellor Prof Njenga Munene believe that with the right mindset, the youth can run successful businesses and help solve the ballooning unemployment crisis by scaling up their innovative potential for industrial growth.
Speaking during a public lecture held jointly by Zetech University, Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business and Omarichet Space at the university’s campus in Ruiru, Munene said with innovation, the country can fast-track achievement of enhanced productivity and ultimately industrial growth that is much needed in solving the joblessness problem.
“In this case, our youths should align themselves with the market demand for innovativeness to drive the economic agenda of Kenya and the globe,” he said.
Officials at the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) attribute the growing youth unemployment mainly to lack of connection between entrepreneurship training in the institutes of higher learning and actual practice of the same on the ground. According to Benson Muthendi, YEDF acting Chief executive, mentorship in business among the youth is low, contributing to the increasing failures of businesses started by the young people and increased level of unemployment.
“It is out of the identified gaps that our institution together with other organisations undertook a research to interrogate the genesis of the disconnection with a view to recommending key strategies that need to be pursued,” he said.
Muthendi identified one of the strategies the state corporation under the ministry of public service, is implementing out of the findings of the research as the development of a new entrepreneurship curriculum. Renson Muchiri, an Associate Professor of Business Research Methods and Entrepreneurship at KCA University also agreed that young people are failing to sustain their businesses due to lack of mentors, innovation and inadequate capital. “Most of the youth we have interacted with reveal that entrepreneurship learning they have received in universities is heavily theoretical and lacks receptive insights that can make transition from education to practice of entrepreneurship achievable,” he said.
In 2021, under the British Council’s Innovation for African Universities (IAU) Programme, YEDF teamed up with two prominent Universities, KCA University and University of Nottingham (UK) to fast-track new solutions.
Partners under a project titled Co-production for Youth Entrepreneurship in Kenya (CoPYEK), sought to investigate the disconnect between entrepreneurship learning and practice of the acquired knowledge by the Kenyan youth.
Their findings led to the crafting of very innovative solutions to facilitate young people keen on successfully venturing into entrepreneurship. Muriuki complains that the majority of youth, due to lack of good mentors close down their businesses a few months after opening.
“Even though there are adequate sources of capital to start productions, as young people in business we are grappling with lack of good guidance from experienced business people and low innovation,” he said. Additional reporting by Mathew Ndung’u