Over the last decade Kenya has experienced a boost in its economy. This can be attributed to a shift from a largely agricultural and tourism based economy to a service and technology based one, especially in the area of telecommunications. But just as the face of a clock hides behind it a complex mechanism of gears and moving parts, each interacting in a cause-effect relationship, Kenya´s economic growth has had several factors behind it.
For one, the increasingly accessible primary and secondary school education has led to a higher literacy level among both urban and rural youth, with the added result that more boy and girls between the ages of 16 and 19 are sitting for the annual national examinations required for university admission. This translates to more than 750,000 students per year.
There is a problem with this however since the public universities can only admit less than half this number. Furthermore, the increasing mechanization of agriculture has meant that fewer and fewer people are needed for work in large farms, thus narrowing the employment chances of those who cannot pursue white-collar jobs through a university education.
Faced with this apparently bleak situation, a greater number of private colleges and universities have arisen, often offering degrees and diplomas of equal if not greater repute than those gained in public universities. Such institutions have literally mushroomed over the last ten years so as to cater for the ever growing demand for tertiary education.
The result; a large youthful and well educated population ready and willing to be “plugged into” an economy which has experienced an exponential growth in the telecommunications and IT industry, even to the point of having Wi-Fi installed in public transport.
Now whereas larger farms require fewer people with the advancement of technology, the same doesn´t apply in telecommunications and IT. More computers and mobile technologies means more educated people behind them; and when you have close to a million innovative and educated youths armed with the latest technology at their fingertips, then a technological revolution is close at hand.
This, I think, is what could make Kenya the “Silicon Valley” of Africa, not forgetting that the innovative and ambitious technological successes of the western world have been fuelled by the energy and vibrancy of a youthful and creative workforce, which is what Kenya has in abundance today.