Role of Talent in the Kenyan Economy- Cytonn Report

By Vera Shawiza / July 25, 2016



economic-growth

To transition to a mid-income economy, a low-income but developing economy, such as Kenya, has to implement a myriad of economic growth initiatives in order to achieve sustained economic growth that will translate to higher incomes and better standards of living. Such initiatives include:

  1. a generally enabling business environment
  2. open markets allowing for the free flow of labor, capital, goods and services
  3. a stable and democratic system of governance based on the rule of law, and
  4. a highly educated, entrepreneurial and innovative pool of talent, among other initiatives.

This focus note discusses the role of talent in growing our economy in the context of our own experience at Cytonn and makes some suggestions on how to deepen our talent pool to improve our economy.

Last week we officially launched our Cytonn Young Leaders Programme (“CYLP”), which is our core strategy for identifying, attracting and developing the very best talent we can get. Since inception two years ago CYLP has trained over 180 university graduates and we have made employment offers to 61 of these program participants. About 50% of our permanent staff is made of people we recruited straight out of college. This program has been one of the key drivers of our rapid growth, hence the decision to do a focus note on talent right after the CYLP launch.

Talent, in the context of economic growth, can be defined as a group of people, such as employees of a company, who have an aptitude for particular tasks. People in an organization are referred to as talent because it is through their unique skill sets, commitment and hard work that the organization grows. A growing company employs more people, pays more taxes, and produces more relevant goods and services; all of which culminate into a growing economy with better standards of living.

The economic development of Singapore under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew is famous as one of the greatest economic success stories in history. Singapore’s per capita GDP jumped from around US$ 500 in 1965, by a staggering 2,800 percent, to US$ 14,500 by 1991, the end of his rule; the GDP per capita has since continued to grow to US$55,000. Lee Kuan Yew implemented a lot of initiatives to make Singapore the most prosperous nation in Southeast Asia, and nurturing and attracting talent was one of the core initiatives. In his book, “From Third World to First”, Lee Kuan Yew says, “talent is a country’s most precious asset … it is the defining factor.” In the 1950s and 1960s, the leadership focused on building an efficient, universal education system that would provide a skilled workforce for Singapore’s industrialization programme as well as to reduce unemployment rates. Lee Kuan Yew also saw the need to build a professional teaching force and internationally competitive local universities that would put Singapore on the world map. Singapore worked with its missions in Britain, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada to identify promising students in foreign universities and interest them with jobs in Singapore. Today, most of Singapore Universities are known internationally for high teaching standards especially in the field of science and mathematics. Singapore currently has an unemployment rate of 1.9% making it one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world with majority of the labor force being highly skilled and well educated.

While Singapore is different from Kenya, we can learn a great lesson that talent indeed promotes economic growth and talent can both be developed locally and also imported as case was for immigrants in Singapore.

The government of Kenya is already doing a lot to increase the talent pool, including:

  1. Introduction of free and compulsory primary education
  2. Promoting access to higher education by increasing the number of universities and tertiary colleges, while also increasing the intake periods to accommodate more students into tertiary education
  3. Providing loans and bursaries, through the Higher Education Loans Board and other devolved funds, to needy students to finance their university education, while maintaining affordable education in public tertiary institutions
  4. Effecting other programmes such as National Industrial Training Authority (NITA), Kenya National Volunteers Program (KNVP) and Kenya Youth Empowerment Program (KYEP) to help in developing skills that are relevant to the job market and hence reducing unemployment levels in the country.

Read: How to Turn Talent into a Career

However, the government and the private sector need a collaborative effort to do a lot more. We think the following may be helpful:

  1. Increase access to education in both secondary and university, by extending free education to secondary levels and making university education more accessible and affordable; this will need a more efficient student loan disbursement and collection effort
  2. Make is easier for foreign talent and immigrants to obtain work permits. The current system is too bureaucratic and makes it hard to bring in the much needed foreign talent and skills, which can enhance our productive capacity and create more jobs
  3. Have a clear and aggressive industrialization and manufacturing program, which will create jobs for graduates from technical institutes thereby reducing unemployment and increasing productivity which in turn leads to growth of the economy
  4. Create significant incentives for employers with strategic talent development programs, such as CYLP, which are focused on equipping raw talent from universities with productive skills
  5. Develop strategies with key Kenyan missions and embassies around the world to attract talented and skilled Kenyan diaspora back home to enable skills transfer. This may involve giving significant incentives to both returning skilled Kenyan diaspora workers and the companies they join
  6. Corporates should play a key role in terms of investing in training programs to increase the pool of skilled talent, by training and employing raw talent from universities, rather than competing for the limited pool of experienced talent. While this may seem like Corporate Social Responsibility, it is a strategic competitive advantage to corporates.

The Kenyan economy is on a growth trajectory given the prevailing macroeconomic stability, a young and growing population, and increasing ease of doing business. It is critical that we quicken our growth trajectory by investing heavily and over a sustained period of time, and as a national priority just as Singapore did, in nurturing and attracting talent. It is a strategic priority for the country and particularly for its private sector.

 



About Vera Shawiza

Vera Shawiza is Soko Directory’s in-house journalist. Her zealous nature ensures that sufficient and relevant content is generated for the Soko Directory website and sourcing information from clients is easy as smooth sailing.Vera can be reached at: (020) 528 0222 or Email: [email protected]

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