Institutionalizing informed policies, a solution to Kenya’s youth unemployment

The Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE) has given an impetus to the ongoing Kenya-wide concerns on the need to institutionalize the use of evidence in the country’s policy making, implementation, and evaluation. This is timely as the country continues to grapple with youth unemployment despite the existence of different policies and regulations-the most recent being the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (2007)[1] and Kazi Kwa Vijana.[2]

Speaking at English point Marina, Mombasa-Kenya in a conference convened by the Partnership for African Social Governance and Research-PASGR, CABE, executive director Dr. Hannington Odame expressed concern that the agricultural sector which accounts for 34 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and a key driver of Kenya’s economy provided little traction for the youth. Odame noted that agribusiness provides the greatest employment opportunity for the youth, who the International Labour Organization reports their unemployment rate to be 35 percent of the population.

Evidence informed policy making is not institutionalized.

The conference held between 25 to 26 February 2021 brought together collaborative houses (CABE, Pamoja trust, African Platform for Social Protection and Institute of Policy Analysis and Research-Rwanda) under Utafiti Sera house, a program implemented by PASGR.

Presenting different studies, the four houses agreed that evidence-based policy making has not been institutionalized in Kenya and Africa at large. Agreeing further that existing policies are not comprehensive and that related interventions are not sustainable; the houses questioned the role of policy culture in evidence use by government departments in Africa.

A section of youth in agribusiness

The social dimension

The houses highlighted the importance of the social element to stakeholder engagement. “What do socio-economic survey inform? How do we share information of the data collected and how does it engage with the implementation of the projects?” posed Samuel Olando, executive director, Pamoja Trust. Olando adds that the consideration of social dimensions is important since it helps in stakeholder engagement frameworks.

Emphasizing on a need for a comprehensive approach which recognizes social, economic, political, and ethical dimensions, the houses called for a multi stakeholder approach to evidence based policy making. “partnership with KCDMS through KEPSA and the County government of Makueni to identify gaps and challenges for youth employment in the agro production has borne fruits. This is illustrated by successful engagements with the CEC Agriculture, Makueni, as a key participant – under the auspice of “Feed the Future Program” housed by Makueni, USAID, Alternatives, RTI and CABE,” says Waithera Gaitho, executive director, Alternatives Africa.

Way forward

The Utafiti Sera interhouse conference is a step in the right direction on the need to entrench the uptake of evidence-based policy making in Kenya. Cognizant that policy engagement is not a short-term goal, hence requiring intergenerational partnerships, the houses commit to engage individual policy makers and actors; and learn from what works to seize relevant and evolving partnerships through an integrated approach to achieve a practical, sustainable, comprehensive policy on youth employment. Achievement of this will require trust building, policy dialogue and an appreciation of the role of policy culture (the way different governmental departments embrace the use of evidence in informing policies) in building an ecosystem of evidence use in policy making. Subsequently, implemented evidence-based policies will effectively help the Kenyan government to achieve its goals such as youth employment creation.

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