Kenya and the Need to Upskill Her Workforce: The Interplay Between Population and Economy

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  • Following a period of intense population and economic growth, the world population entered a period of slower growth, with a consequent reduction in manpower availability.

    Estimates of the future global population are 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.9 billion in 2100, assuming an average total fertility rate of 2.1, with half of the increase expected to come from South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Currently, in Africa, there are 59.7 million people aged 60 or over, representing 6 per cent of the population. By 2050, there will be 215 million older people representing 10 per cent of the regional population. As of 2012, 5 million people in Africa were aged 80 years or over.

    This is expected to increase to 22.5 million (1 per cent) by 2050. Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to represent 22% of the world’s population in 2050, versus 14% today. 

    Kenya’s population is young and continues to grow, but fertility has been declining. In a few years, the number of young adults that will join the workforce will soon reach a plateau.

    Unemployment is already decreasing with the unemployment figure being as low as 3%. Over these last years, the jobs created have been in agriculture or in low-paid service jobs. However, to maintain the low unemployment figure in Kenya, the job creation rate must increase. 

    Africa is trailing behind Europe in healthy life expectancy, ranking last among the different regions of the world, with a wide divergence from country to country.

    Rural areas in Kenya have been witnessing the increase in urbanization at a fast rate, weakening the ties between generations, although increasingly, seniors also live in large cities. Unfortunately, it is the senior citizens that are at the receiving end.

    A study on migration from rural areas to the urban centres in Kenya reveals that a larger number of seniors live alone and without the right to a pension. Even, 90% of them lack education.

    The healthcare system for seniors suffers from a lack of infrastructure, of qualified personnel and is far too expensive for most people and requires substantial investment.

    The economy

    The economy has suffered massively from the pandemic, but there is a slow recovery that is dependent on the reduction of mortality and of the measures taken by the authority to prevent the spread of infections.

    The health system requires substantial investments to be capable of resisting pandemics or other public health threats.

    Those investments must include training at all levels of the health hierarchy as every year, over the next 10 years, an additional one million young men and women will enter the workforce and the health sector will offer plenty of opportunities.

    Educating the workforce must be a priority, thus enabling it to be better paid and reduce disparities in society. The education system must concentrate on the transfer of skills rather than on theoretical knowledge.

    Skills in planning and management must be taught together with more technical skills, whether in finance and banking, or medical practice.

    A growing economy inevitably requires a large number of competencies, but management is required in every single industry.

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