Classified as a lower middle-income country by the World Bank since 2014, Kenya’s current Human Development Index score is 0.590, ranking it 142nd in the world. Despite an apparent reduction in income inequality over the past two decades, 36.1 per cent (16.4 million) of the population live in overall poverty. In 2019, Kenya’s economic growth averaged 5.7%, placing Kenya as one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. The recent economic expansion has been boosted by a stable macroeconomic environment, positive investor confidence and a resilient service sector. However, Kenya’s economy is now being affected by supply and demand shocks on external and domestic fronts, thus interrupting the recent broad-based growth path. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified these domestic economic challenges.
In 2017, Kenya’s working age population (between the ages of 15 and 64) was estimated at around 27 million. The same year, labour force participation stood at 66.8 per cent and the unemployment rate was 7.4 percent. Employment opportunities in the informal economy largely outstrip those in the formal sector. 787,800 jobs were created in the informal economy while only 100,000 jobs created in the formal sector. Men comprise the largest proportion of employees in the informal economy (known locally as “Jua Kali”) and more than two thirds of informal jobs are in trade, production and related services such as repairs and maintenance, or in restaurants and hotels. Persons with either no or little education are more likely to work in informal Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) than those with secondary or higher education.
Together with the Kenya Vision 2030 plan for long-term development, the constitutional reform of 2010 included the reform of technical vocational education and training (TVET) in the country. However, insufficient financial resources and inadequate capabilities have constrained its proper implementation. A fragmented legal framework and duplicating responsibilities (both at the central and at operational levels) have also slowed down the reform. The skills mismatch and the resulting negative impact on the employability of the Kenyan population are due to a weak link with the industry, the lack of capacity to generate and utilize Labour Market Information (LMI) in a timely manner and the slow integration of digital skills in the TVET system.