Ambassador Godec’s Remarks at the Generation Kenya Graduation
February 23, 2018, at 9:00 am, KICC
Nairobi County Senator, Johnson Sakaja;
Dr. Kipkirui Langat, Director of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority;
Kartik Jayram, McKinsey & Company Director for Kenya, and the McKinsey team;
Other distinguished guests;
Mabibi na Mabwana!
Vijana! Hamjambo! Habari zenu? Mambo!
I am happy to join you all, to celebrate with you – the young men and women here – and to mark this moment, which is a very important step along your career pathways.
Congratulations graduates! Hongera! In 2017, 4,000 of you successfully completed training and have since been placed into employment in banking, financial sales, retail, and consumer goods distribution. I know you are proud, as should be. Your parents are proud of you. I am proud of you. I trust that you will put the skills you have acquired to good use in your work and in your personal lives. You are leaders. As leaders, I know you can achieve your dreams. I believe in you. You will go far.
Having a job gives you the opportunity to make your dreams a reality, promote positive change in your communities, and contribute directly to the development of your country.
Your employers are already telling us that they will continue to hire those who come after you because you are already outperforming your peers. This means that you are good ambassadors – you are opening doors for other young people who will follow you.
In Kenya, young people between the ages of 15 and 34 are a third of the total population. Youth are an invaluable resource to the development of this country and indeed the entire world. From experience, we know that educated, healthy, employed, and engaged youth drive economic growth, democracy, and prosperity.
For this reason, the U.S. government places a high priority on working with all partners — the Government of Kenya, the private sector, and other development agencies — to create and increase employment opportunities for young people like all of you.
Generation Kenya is one of the youth employment projects through which the United States will help 80,000 young men and women find good, productive jobs by 2020.
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the private sector partners present who have hired and continue to hire Generation Kenya graduates, and who developed and implemented a world-class curriculum relevant to their respective sectors.
We also appreciate the great work of the Generation Kenya team and our partners at McKinsey Social Initiatives. They have put together an innovative program, and a recruitment process that reaches out to at-risk youth, while ensuring gender balance. In a country where women constitute 29 percent of those in the formal employment sector, it is wonderful to note that over 57 percent of Generation’s graduates are women.
The Generation Kenya model is successful because it looks at and understands what employers are looking for in new employees. It then matches that demand for skills with young people who are ready for real jobs in the private sector.
To our private sector partners, your willingness to invest in these young people has generated goodwill, a sense of hope, and real opportunities for 4,000 young people gathered here today.
We are proud to partner with you and look forward to even more and better collaboration in the future. As just a couple of examples, did you know 40 percent of Subway Kenya employees are Generation Kenya graduates? Another partner, Sanlam Kenya, offers in-house training to all entry-level sales and marketing employees! To date, Sanlam has employed over 2,000 Generation Kenya graduates! Congratulations to both companies…and to all the others employing Generation Kenya graduates.
Finally, I commend the Government of Kenya for spearheading educational reforms to innovate, modernize, and implement a youth skills training system that is truly world-class. The Generation Kenya program embodies the reforms you seek and we are proud to support your efforts.
But as much as the donors and your government have helped, remember that it is you, the graduates, who matter most. It is your hard work, creativity, and intelligence that will deliver Kenya’s future. More companies providing better jobs to workers with higher skills who earn more pay – it is the virtuous cycle that made the United States the largest economy in the world. Kenya too will be an economic powerhouse…. If young Kenyans continue to give it everything they’ve got.
While you work to build a more prosperous future for yourselves, your families, and your communities, I urge you as well to work hard to preserve the rights and freedoms of all Kenyans. Across the years, many Kenyans have made great sacrifices for your independence, for democracy, the 2010 Constitution and for your fundamental freedoms. They did so because democracy and rights are precious. They ensure you have the freedom to succeed; not based on ethnicity or family connections, but on your efforts and talents. But democracy and rights are also fragile. And over the recent months, they have been put at great risk by political ambition. It is important now that everyone, leaders and citizens, work to support and defend Kenya’s democracy and fundamental rights.
So as you work hard at your jobs, work hard for each other. Listen to carefully to each other. Work to understand your own concerns, but also those of all your fellow citizens. Find ways to protect your Constitution and move your country forward to an ever better, ever more democratic and free, future. You have taken a step forward today in making yourselves all that you can be. Do the same for Kenya. As you do so, the United States will stand with you.
Finally, as you step out into the world, I’d like to leave you with a quote from an American who, like many of us, came from the humblest of beginnings. He also changed the world. President Abraham Lincoln had this to say: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” You’ve already started doing just that.
Graduates, I wish you the best of luck and a future filled with success.
Pamoja tusonge mbele!