National Employment Authority & Why Kenyans Are Shocked it Even Exists

The NEA stand at the 2019 Nairobi International Trade Fair

On Monday, Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani announced the appointment of former Othaya MP Mary Wambui as the Chairperson of the National Employment Authority (NEA).

While the bigger shock was on the choice of the new appointee, Kenyans were also shocked that the government actually runs an employment body.

NEA Headquarters in Nairobi

NEA was established through the National Employment Authority Act 3 of 2016 (NEA Act), as part of the government’s effort to fulfil its mandate of ensuring that youth and disadvantaged individuals have adequate access to employment opportunities. It was officially launched in May 2019.

Ironically, Kenyans continue to wallow in unemployment despite the promise of NEA, which is guided by the vision “Employment opportunities for all.” According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, over seven million Kenyans remain unemployed.

NEA is also charged with the responsibility of keeping a database of all Kenyans who are seeking employment.

This is also ironic because Kenyans have become so desperate for platforms to market their skills, that they have turned to the streets to look for jobs. It is not uncommon to find jobless Kenyans holding placards on busy highways hoping to be spotted by a potential employer.

Jobless Kenyans have turned to the streets for self-marketing

Other roles that the Authority undertakes include management of foreign employment, provision of internship services and maintaining a database of all employers in the country. Employment agencies in the country are answerable to NEA.

Apart from the creation of employment opportunities, other core priorities of NEA include provision of information on the labour market, revamping public employment services, and promotion of foreign employment.

Formerly, the Authority was known as the National Employment Bureau. It is led by a Board, with a Director General at the helm.

Edith Okoki, Acting Director-General, National Employment Authority (NEA).

The Authority falls under the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, and works closely with National Industrial Training Authority, Kenya Labour Market Information System, International Organisation for Migration, Federation of Kenya Employers, Ajira Digital, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

NEA temporarily hit the headlines in June after it ordered all employers to submit a list of all their staff members, as well as, details of vacant posts within organisations, a directive that did not auger well with employers.

The controversial June 2019 directive by NEA to employers

Kenyans have expressed pessimism in newly appointed Wambui’s ability to lead NEA and solve the unemployment crisis, citing her lack of experience and ability to relate to the struggles of the ordinary mwananchi.

Wambui, who has in the past been romantically linked to retired President Mwai Kibaki, replaces Ms Winnie Pertet as the chair of the NEA Board.

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