Youth Empowerment Program-NairoBits – Kenya

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Context: The youth constitute about 35 per cent of Kenya’s population. Kenya’s population was estimated at 46.33 million in 2015 and is projected to be 52.56 million by 2020, 59.06 million by 2025 and 65.93 million by 2030. This means that the youth population is estimated to increase from 16.22 million in 2015 to 18.4 million in 2020 and to reach 23.1 million by 2030. The youth in Kenya are at least three times as likely as adults to be hit by open unemployment. It is projected that the number of unemployed young people will double by 2050. Specifically, the youth aged 18-25 years bear the greatest burden of unemployment. Such youth are more likely to have no education and, therefore, either openly unemployed (26.2%) or in informal sector employment (45.6%). The youth in the 18-25 years age cohort are also likely to be having only primary level education and mostly engaged in the informal sector (54.3%) or openly unemployed (14%). While on average 12 in every 100 of Kenya’s youth with secondary education are employed in the formal sector, more than triple (40 in every 100) of such youth are employed in the informal sector. Also, Kenya’s youth with tertiary education mostly engage in school up to age 27 years. Most of these youth are not found in formal and informal employment or active job search until the age of 20 years. Representation of the youth with tertiary education in the formal sector mainly starts at the age of 21 years and this increase with age until they reach the cutoff age of 35 years. This means that staying longer in school delays entry into the market, hence easing pressure on the market.

Implementation of programme/ initiative: The Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) is a youth-targeted program managed by the International Youth Foundation (IYF), financed by the Microsoft and executed in Kenya by the African Centre for Women, Information and Communication Technology (ACWICT), Informal Sector Business Institute (ISBI) and NairoBits. The YEP component implemented by NairoBits was started in 2007 and aimed at providing training to disadvantaged and underprivileged youth aged 17-21 years from urban informal settlements around Nairobi. It aimed to improve the employability of young men and women by training them in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), life skills and entrepreneurship. The program also offers mentoring, training in soft skills and sexual reproductive knowledge, job shadowing and placement. The NairoBits curriculum is structured to provide each participant with at least 204 hours of ICT training, 132 hours of life skills and 160 hours of entrepreneurship training. All the program beneficiaries are required to take both the life skills and entrepreneurship training. The program also offers training in internet skills and techniques, and web design. The NairoBits program targeted to train 300 young men and women in ICT, life skills and entrepreneurship; and place at least 62 per cent of the trained participants in IT jobs, self-employment and community service. The NairoBits partners with 34 Community Based Organizations (CBOs), which also act at catchment area for recruitment of program beneficiaries.

Main challenges:The YEP implemented by NairoBits was not without challenges. A key challenge faced by the program was financial constraints coupled by the huge number of youth seeking to be involved in the program. Also, the slow absorption rate of the Kenyan labour market undermined the prospects of the youth transition to work after training. Also, weak entrepreneurial culture and drive among some of the program beneficiaries inhibited the attainment of the full potential of the program. The program focused on the informal settlements in Nairobi as its catchment areas. However, the youth from these areas have diverse challenges and debilitating effects.

Results achieved: A total of 1,224 youth had been trained under the program by December 2009. This number increased to 31,521 in 2015. Impact evaluation of the program revealed a placement rate of 78.72 per cent after training. In this context, the beneficiaries of the program who were placed after the training stated that they were either involved in an internship (48.72%), worked in a job (53.85%) or independently (12.82%), or performed community service (35.90%), or in many cases, a combination of these activities. Another 10.63 per cent of the beneficiaries continued with their studies or participated in another training program outside of NairoBits. In aggregate terms, 82.98 per cent of the youth who benefitted from the program were employed, self-employed, participated in an internship or community service, or continued their studies after the training. Up to 76.47 per cent of the youth who received the intervention but were not working as at the time of the evaluation (36.17%) indicated that employers were asking for more experience than they had. They were, however, still actively looking for work. The average monthly salary of the program beneficiaries was KSh. 10,586 (equivalent to USD 138). This was 3.5 and 3.2 times the statutory minimum wage in the agricultural sector in 2009 and 2010, respectively. It was also 1.6 times the 2010 statutory minimum wage for minimum wage earners in the general services sector in Nairobi area, Mombasa and Kisumu.

Moving Forward: The YEP seeks to expand training in ICT to include maintenance and repair. It also seeks to expand and widen the scope of the entrepreneurship program to offer more specialized courses. The program also aims at expanding business services to students who do not continue through to the advanced ICT courses, create linkages with other centres and organisations that have a niche in business development, develop partnership with financial institutions, create partnership with placement agencies and restructure the system designed to collect student information. It also plans to seek funds from development partners to improve its financial structure.

Replicability: The success of the YEP implemented by NairoBits may be traced to the strong partnership that the institution has with development partners, CBOs and government. NairoBits has a pool of 34 CBOs, which it partners with especially in recruitment of the beneficiaries. It also has a healthy partnership with business organizations and employers. This partnership particularly promotes the internship, job shadowing, placement and entrepreneurial training component of the program. The holistic training provided by the program in areas such as soft skills, entrepreneurial skills; ICT, leadership, and reproductive health provides a strong basis for its replication.


Nairobits (2010). Youth Empowerment Program, Evaluation Report, Kenya

Republic of Kenya (2016), Kenya Youth Employment and Opportunity Project, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs. Available at

NairoBits Trust (2015) NairoBits 2015 annual report, leveraging on technology to transform lives as retrieved from

NairoBits Trust (2010) Youth Empowerment Project Evaluation Report, Kenya. Available at

Project Details

Date: July 24, 2017

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