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Kibera Then and Now

KIBERA, Kenya (ILO Online) – Deep within the labyrinth of this bustling informal settlement’s infinite network of footpaths, a young man tends to rows of plants in a small community greenhouse. He is a member of a group of youths that also runs a water kiosk, a chair rental business and a public bathhouse with pay per use latrines.

Meanwhile, on the slum’s main street, young men wash cars with buckets of water hauled from a nearby creek at warp speed.

During post-election violence three years ago, youths were tearing up the railroad tracks that run through Kibera, furious over the lack of jobs and sky-high unemployment. Thousands of idle youths took to the streets to disrupt and burn the businesses and houses of perceived members of the economically advantaged.

Today, residents have rebuilt their communities, and the hustle and bustle within the informal settlement has shifted from frustrated violence to productive work. However, employment remains a huge challenge particularly among the youth – a point that analysts are studying closely as the country gears up for new elections next year. 

Kibera is at the fault line of the youth employment crisis with an estimated 80 per cent of young people without work. According to the GET Youth Report, the 2010 youth unemployment rate was an estimated 12,7 per cent, while some countries, notably in northern and Sub-Saharan Africa have rates of 40 per cent or more. For 2011, the global rate is expected to be at 12,6 per cent.

What happens in Kibera is a microcosm of what needs to take place everywhere –either find jobs for youth or risk the consequences. Acknowledging the need to focus renewed energy on youth employment, the ILO is gearing up for a year of youth oriented projects and activities in 2012 designed to mobilize support for plans aimed a promoting the creation of jobs for youth globally.

Continue reading my article on the International Labour Organization’s Website.

View corresponding slideshow.


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