KenTrade is a force for good of the youth

By Lawrence Njihia

Today, the youth represent over 1.5 billion people – the largest youth population in the history of mankind. But today the majority of youth in Kenya do not have stable economic opportunities. According to World Bank figures Kenya’s current youth unemployment rate stands at almost 40% of the youth population which is an estimated 5.2 million young adults. While the economy grew by 6.3% in 2018 (Economic Survey 2019) economic opportunities driven by a high growth rate must outpace increase in population. There are several dimensions to the solutions to youth unemployment. But let me focus on one – creating economic opportunities for young people in trade.

According to the Economic Survey of 2019 Kenya’s value of imports grew by 2.0 percent in 2018 and total exports earnings rose by 3.2% over the same period. This increase in the value of imports and total exports earnings presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the burgeoning Kenyan youth population. Some of the opportunities will come with the opening up of Africa to become a single market area as a result of the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area and other international commerce opportunities will come from international trade agreements facilitated at the WTO.

Today opportunities available in trade are for instance exporting plastics and articles of clothing to Namibia and Malawi and importing vanilla from Madagscar to Kenya or wool and mohair from Lesotho. And Kenya’s export opportunities are not just in trade in goods but also services such as ICT, Tourism, Transport, Financial Services and Professional services. An example of trading in services would be franchising of Kenya’s restaurants in Lesotho and provision of tourism services in the pristine beaches of The Madagascar.

However, there are challenges to young people’s involvement the main one being access to information on how engage in trade. There are increasing efforts to address this, and this is why as a young person I laud the InfoTrade Portal by KenTrade that provides a step by step guide to imports, exports and transit trade procedures to assist traders make informed choices.

This is just one ICT intervention enabling trade for young people. Other available platforms that are making it easier for young people to engage in trade through KenTrade are the Kenya TradeNet System a single window system that enables a trader lodge their import/export documents for approval by the agencies involved in exports/imports and also i-Screen Kenya which is a screening system that allows traders to vet their buyers/sellers for secure cross-trade.

Electronic cargo tracking system by KenTrade’s partner agency, and an online reporting system for barriers not related to tariffs championed by UNCTAD – a partner to KenTrade’s work – are also available to young people to facilitate them more in trade. In light of these opportunities and interventions, more young people involvement will be a force of good and KenTade is at the forefront in championing this. We laud their efforts.

The author is UNCTAD’s Youth Action Hub Kenya Vice-Coordinator. He is the programme specialist for Trade and Business at African Youth Union Commission Kenya. Lawrence is also Co-Founder at a Top 23 African Startups Award recipient of the MTN by JUMIA challenge 2016 and Top 40 Pangea Startups Accelerator 2018.




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