The recent United Nations Human Development report indicates that as per last year, youth unemployment in Tanzania stood at 5.2 percent and 4.0 percent in Uganda.
In Kenya, youth unemployment has risen to 22.2 percent, radically higher than the two neighboring countries with Ethiopia as well.
In Rwanda and Burundi, the unemployment rate was at 3.3 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively.
Kenya’s figure is slightly higher than the recently disclosed by the US-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB), which put joblessness among those aged between 15 and 24 years at 20.3 per cent.
The UN report shows that Kenya’s rate of unemployment is now equal to those rates in the neighboring Ethiopia and Rwanda combined.
Former World Bank chief economist for Kenya Apurva Sanghi has presumed that Kenya’s high unemployment rate is mainly attributable to the fact that Kenya’s ability to create new jobs has lagged behind the population growth, thinning formal opportunities.
Sanghi explains that aside from the government providing a conducive business climate for private companies to thrive and create jobs, Kenya must channel more resources towards developing its human capital to boost productivity.
“There is need to step up the quality of education to align it with market needs and to keep the growth engine running, driven by innovation,” said Mr. Sanghi, a position shared even by fellow economists at the Bank’s headquarters in Washington.
The huge figures of youth unemployment in Kenya is seen as threatening the country’s future role as the East Africa’s economic powerhouse, even though the issue has been on the election agenda of many local politicians, especially the presidential candidates.
Experts have proposed that the country improves infrastructure to lower business costs in order to raise demand for labour and also upgrade skills of young people.
High population growth rates have often been associated with high population growth rate.
Based on the United Nations estimates, the current population of Kenya is 48,609,428, ranking number 29 in the list of top countries by population.
The population has therefore increased by 10 million people from 2009 (a period of seven years) when the last census was showed that the country had 38.6 million people.
While Kenya has the highest unemployment rate in East Africa, the country has the least population growth rate in the region.
The correlation between population growth and unemployment is not always direct as other issues specific to individual countries plays a part as well.
Experts suppose that though Kenya’s rising population is alarming, it cannot fully explain unemployment figures in the country.