Kenya leads Africa in recovery, but long-term outlook is clouded

Kenya is one of the first African countries that has begun to respond to the gradual international economic recovery -- apparently justifying the Western view that Kenya and Ivory Coast are the two ``model countries'' in sub-Saharan Africa. But while the short-term prospects for Kenya look promising, the outlook for the medium and long term gives much less cause for optimism.

Kenya is beset by staggering unemployment. Some 7 million adult Kenyans are now on the labor market. Of these, almost 6 million are currently not in paid employment, and of the 1.1 million earning salaries, over half are government employees.

With population growing at an annual rate of 4.1 percent (one of the highest in the world), 7 million more Kenyans will enter the labor market within the next decade.

This means that an additional 13 million jobs will have to be found.

The rapid growth of those in need of employment is illustrated by the fact that 100,000 children are now enrolled in schools, and an estimated 40,000 children will be leaving school this year.

There is also the question of suitable employment for university graduates. This problem has been dealt with over the past two years by a government policy of finding places for all graduates who fail to find work in the open market.

Only about 750,000 new jobs have been created in Kenya since its independence 10 years ago -- and this covers the period of the most rapid economic growth in the country's history.

The prospect of finding work opportunities at the rate of 1 million a year over the next 10 years does not appear bright.

In most African countries, future employment lies in agriculture, but Kenya has already reached saturation point on the land: There is a surplus of farm labor and virtually no new land that can be developed, even with improved farming methods.

Since he took over from Jomo Kenyatta six years ago, President Daniel arap Moi has displayed considerable skill in consolidating his political power.

He is now firmly established, having successfully changed the political power structure he inherited from Kenyatta. But President Moi still shows little sign of having a policy to deal with the ominous longer-term threats of growing unemployment.

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