The Cooperative Business Model – A Solution to Youth Unemployment in Kenya 

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By Diana Macharia, Cooperative Development Officer – USAID/CLEAR Program

Every year hundreds of thousands of youth graduate from tertiary learning institutions around the country. In the recent past, it has become apparent that both the public and private sector are unable to absorb these graduates entering the job market. According to the Kenyan Government (GoK, 2006) the Kenyan economy only absorbs 25% of youth leaving out the rest to shoulder the weight of unemployment. 

Members of Chipukizi Coop performing at a recent event

 Global Communities under the USAID funded Cooperative Leadership Engagement, Advocacy and Research (CLEAR) Program is supporting young worker cooperative businesses in Nairobi County, through providing technical assistance and capacity building in Governance, Management, Production, Marketing and Membership. To scale up this support, CLEAR program is partnering with counties to support them to tailor make inclusive cooperative policies and legislation to support adoption of the worker cooperative business model especially by the youth. This business model, if fully embraced within an enabling environment – could possibly serve as a catalyst to transform the informal sector to formal and create decent work for youth.  

Chipukizi Voice of Drama (VOD) Cooperative Society Limited, a newly registered cooperative based in Nairobi, was established to provide edutainment services on topical issues within the cooperative sector and the society at large. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Chipukizi had already lined up a number of paid performances at corporate and social events. Given the government directive on social distancing; Chipukizi has since been developing edutainment content and using social media for dissemination with the aim of deriving revenue due to high number of followers and viewership. This is an example of how the youth can leverage the service cooperatives business enterprise model to earn a living through their talents and passion. 

Talent and passion, however, is not everything! It is important to add on skills in the areas of management, governance, membership, service provision and marketing as the key dimensions of the cooperative business enterprise development. Overall, keeping track of where the money is and how it is flowing is key in order to enable the cooperative to keep the light on so to speak and the members earning their dividend. CLEAR program has come on-board by offering training on matters Governance and member compensation and communication within the Cooperative members of Chipukizi Cooperative 

CLEAR Program’s collaboration with local stakeholders and governments is aimed at building their institutional capacity to begin engaging with youth on the cooperative business model and exploring opportunities for decent work through this model. Youth based self-help groups and associations are potential coop businesses that can benefit from coop education and learning. 

 Cooperatives can be used as a tool to combat youth unemployment. The worker cooperative business model has been embraced globally as an opportunity to take on the service-based entrepreneurial journey collectively, therefore providing an enabling environment for resilience through the start-up journey.