Breaking down the Youth Unemployment Challenge in Kenya

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Guest Blog by Maureen Gitata, LEG ’22

I have found this course to be invaluable in teaching new approaches to economic development challenges, that ensure that the root cause/systemic challenges of issues have been addressed. My favorite course takeaways include:

  • Knowing that development challenges are often complex and require more of an 1804 journey (PDIA approach) to address them.
  • The concept of economic complexity and the product space lays a great foundation to understand why different countries and cities are where they are relative to their growth and development. As a professional who’s often charged with conducting such comparative studies, this course has provided excellent tools which I can use for such analysis going forward.
  • The growth diagnostic approach which centers on getting to the binding constraint was extremely valuable, particularly in understanding which signals to look out for to identify the binding constraints. I often wonder why there hasn’t been improvement on so many challenges that have received so much programming resources in the past, and now I can see part of it is these programs often do not address the binding constraints.
  • Measuring inclusive growth – While this has been the focus of most of my work, this class has broadened my understanding of measures of inclusion, and the link to economic complexity and growth will also enable me to make a stronger case for more inclusion going forward.
  • The sense of us was an extremely interesting lecture and provides a new way of thinking of how national cultures can also influence policy direction and the implications of that for economic development. 

My growth challenge evolved in a number of ways over the time period, in particular:

  • First, being able to see that the youth unemployment challenge is only a symptom of underlying economic growth/development challenges, and being able to link this to the challenge of economic complexity.
  • Breaking the challenge down further into its constituent drivers, I landed on limited capital and financing for businesses, and a skills mismatch as the binding constraints. As I continue to work on this challenge even further, I believe I’ll be able to break it down even further to get to more granularity on the binding constraints.  
  • Being able to identify other metrics to track if progress has been made on my growth challenge e.g change in productivity, wages and standards of living.

My immediate next assignment at work is on fostering inclusive markets and trade for an international agricultural organization, which I will be aiming to draw directly from this course e.g. mapping the various levels of agricultural complexity and inclusion from the different countries we will be working on; and using the binding constraint approach to identify what have been the barriers to growth in these countries

We are also in conversations with a number of partner organizations to identify what we can work on together on the youth employment challenge in Kenya.

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 71 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2022. These are their learning journey stories.

1 Comment

  1. Very interesting write up and well appreciated.
    Economic growth is actually a panacea to social vices in some developing Nations but is the other way in the so called Developed Nations. Most of the African Countries continues to lag behind on improvement in so many challenges that have received so much programming resources due to lack of a clear cut agenda in youth empowerment and strong institutions for sustainability of such programs.

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