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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April, 2003, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Kenya's struggle to find work

By James Whittington
BBC World Service Africa business editor

Textile factory in Nairobi
Two million are unemployed

Nearly 60% of Kenyans, or 17 million people, lack sufficient income to meet their basic needs.

Job creation is at the centre of the new government's strategy for economic recovery.

About two million people are unemployed. The majority of those in poverty scrape by through subsistence farming or occasional odd jobs, leading to widespread frustration among Kenyans trying to find a job.

Adan Mohamed, the managing director of Barclays Bank in Kenya, says his company gets thousands of applicants for every job advertised.

Shrinking options

He explains that the number of graduates has been growing, while job opportunities in the government and private sector have declined.

"And if the economy is not growing at the same pace as the number of graduates coming out of school each year, there will come a time when the number of unemployed people increases," he says.

"And in Kenya those two lines crossed each other quite a long time ago."

The National Rainbow Coalition, in office since January 2003, has promised to create at least half a million new jobs a year.

A good start

Planning minister Anyang Nyong says that more jobs are already being created than ever before.

Free primary school education promises to bring jobs for 60,000 more teachers.

Expansion of export processing zones is already employing more people.

There are also new factories opening in the textiles sector as a result of a United States trade law, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which drops tariffs on African cloth.

"If it keeps like that it is going to be extremely realistic in the terms of achieving our objectives," the minister said.


Expectations are high that the new government will deliver where the old one failed.

However, some businessmen think the goal of half a million new jobs a year is too ambitious.

Rick Ashley, the chief executive at Old Mutual Asset Managers in Kenya, said: "I think it's an incredibly stretching target to achieve those figures - everything has to be working in our favour.

"You have to be looking at some of the sectors that will be labour intensive and which can give a lot of jobs."

He believes those sectors need a lot of work to enable them to create jobs after years of neglect as a result of government policy.

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