The informal sector has grown in leaps and bounds over the last decade. This growth has mainly been propelled by the shrinking availability of formal employment opportunities, with most of these businesses in the sector being micro enterprises. The quality of employment in the sector is poor as most usually work without access to medical insurance and no terminal benefits. In a bid to formalise these informal businesses to a level where they can provide quality employment, a few factors have to be considered.
The sort of training that usually takes place is traditional apprenticeship. This is whereby various skill sets are acquired via on the job training. In the Jua Kali sector for example, improved technical skills are of prime importance for enhancing their productivity as well as the quality of the goods and services they produce. These however, have to be regularly updated so that they will be at per with modern technological practices in a liberalised and globalised market.
Institutions that offer technical training still base their curricula on the needs for wage-employment, while requirements for self-employment such as basic management skills are not emphasised on as key pillars to these programs. While interviewing a majority of businesses in the informal sector, this is an aspect that has come out strongly. Basic financial literacy skills such as book keeping are side lined which leaves these businesses at a disadvantage as they do not have a platform from which they can engage with financial institutions that they approach for assistance.
The design of the current curriculum in the institutions that offer courses that are suitable for those that are engaged in the informal sector is tailored for individuals who would like to gain entry into its various sub sectors while ignoring the importance of upskilling. Those that earn a living from informal businesses often do not have the luxury of leaving their work places unattended as this is often the only way that they can afford to put food on their tables. The sort of curriculum that would work for them is one that is flexible enough to allow them to attend classes after working hours as well as properly structured short courses.
The Kenya Industrial Transformation Program (KITP) states that manufacturing is expected to increase its contribution to the national GDP by at least 10% per year. One of the focus areas that are spelled out include the strengthening of the capacity and local content of domestically manufactured goods. Some of the ways in which it plans to achieve this goal is through the development of Small and Medium Enterprise Parks as well as Industrial and Technology Parks, upgrading of products from small and medium enterprises and most importantly, the development of skills for the Technical Human Resource for the Manufacturing Sector.
It is with this in mind that the curriculum that is developed for the skills required to achieve this ambition be based on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) approach. This will ensure that the labour force will be adequately equipped to handle the challenge of developing products that are competitive in regional and international markets and relevant to the growing needs of the country.
Informal Economy Analyst