The government of Kenya with the support of multilateral donors, especially the World Bank, has introduced several youth employment initiatives since the 2000s, including a large-scale public
works programme. There is a mix of supply-side programmes which provide training to enhance the skills of the youth labour force and demand-side initiatives which facilitate entrepreneurship
and provide business development services. Although the Kenyan economy is transforming slowly, there are structural impediments to creating higher productivity jobs (World Bank, 2016a)
especially for the youth. The literature calls for youth employment programmes to adopt a demand-side approach which stimulates job creation and encompasses support for labour-intensive industries which generate wage-employment as well as self-employment initiatives in agriculture and the informal sector (Fox & Kaul, 2017).
There is a paucity of rigorous evaluations of youth employment programmes in Kenya (World Bank, 2016), as well as very little information about the impact of agricultural support programmes which target the youth. This makes it difficult to reach a consensus regarding which types of youth employment interventions work best in Kenya. However, the limited evidence which is available from five evaluations of training and entrepreneurship development interventions in Kenya finds that:
- The combination of life-skills training, vocational training and internships do lead to gains in employment and higher earnings.
- Mentorship programmes for entrepreneurs do not yield sustainable benefits in terms of sales or profits.
- The effectiveness of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund was hampered by inefficiency and corruption (Sikenyi, 2017).
- cost-to-benefit analysis suggests that the cost of training can be off-set by improved earnings within one to three years after the intervention.
Youth employment programmes may struggle to achieve scale (World Bank, 2016b). There is a shortage of qualified trainers for entrepreneurship development and training providers may lack
the capacity to train large numbers of participants (Azevedo, Davis, & Charles, 2013). The impact of youth employment programmes in Kenya may be curtailed by factors which are beyond the
scope of the intervention such as the regional or ethnic marginalisation of some youth, especially in northern and coastal regions (Balwanz, 2012).
The World Bank recommends that all programmes be widely advertised so that there are a transparent selection process and a mechanism for addressing complaints. Other lessons include that youth enterprise development programmes should target youth from 18 to 35 years since older youth are more likely to create jobs for younger people (World Bank, 2016b). Overall, women in Kenya have fewer opportunities for access to education and skills development. Unemployment is especially high among female youth in urban areas (World Bank, 2016a). Youth employment programmes must be customised to meet the needs of young women. The available evidence suggests that women benefit from a combination of life-skills training, vocational training and workplace placements (Azevedo et al., 2013). Mentorship does not provide sustainable benefits for micro and small businesses run by women (Brooks, Donovan, & Johnson, 2016), although further research is needed to confirm this finding.