Education key to fighting regional unemployment: Kenya

KenyaNAIROBI (AA) – Kenya has called on fellow states of the International Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to pay more attention to education as a key means of combating unemployment in the region.

“As we grapple with this challenge and, looking into the future, allow me to observe – as did Aristotle centuries ago – that the fate of nations depends on the education of the youth,” Kenyan Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed told an ICGLR ministerial meeting in Nairobi on Wednesday.

The meeting – which brought together ministers of youth, labor and foreign affairs from the Great Lakes region – aims to discuss means of tackling the region’s high rates of youth unemployment.

“The youth we are discussing here today will be the sole actors on the political, economic and social stage of our countries in the years ahead,” Mohammed said.

“Our region’s future – the state of employment, peace, stability and economic development – will therefore be profoundly shaped by how we educate the youth today,” she added.

The minister went on to urge African leaders to rethink the education systems in their respective countries so that they could ensure that young people in their countries had positive values and attitudes.

“This should include training the youth on the virtues of honesty, hard work, responsibility and commitment to making positive contributions to their communities and society,” said Mohammed.

“This is the only way we shall be able to equip the youth with the skills necessary for gainful employment and mold them into responsible citizens on whom we can safely entrust the future of our continent,” she asserted.

Mary Robinson, U.N. special envoy for the Great Lakes region, noted that 96.2 percent of young people in the Democratic Republic of Congo were informally employed, while the figure stood at a whopping 99 percent in Zambia.

“Although education attainment levels are generally on the rise globally, Africa, compared to the rest of the world, tends to lag behind,” she said. “Youth employment tends to increase with higher education levels.”

Robinson went on to point out that in 2010, 20.4 percent of Africa’s population was between the age of 15 and 24, adding that over 75 percent of Kenya’s current population was younger than 35 years old.

“Further projections show that by 2020, three out of every four Africans will be on average 20 years old,” she said.

This represents an alarming trend, she said, because Africa’s population is growing faster than any other region – while also getting younger each year.

This, Robinson asserted, made it necessary for African leaders to ensure that young people in their countries were well educated so as to combat future youth unemployment.

Established in 2007, the ICGLR – which is headquartered in Bujumbura, Burundi – is devoted to promoting peace and stability in Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

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