Prostitution, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and all manner of ills seems to have gripped our society. Sometimes last December (2020) a friend invited me to help do research on a matter related to business and social groups. So in one session, we spent some time walking around the central business district of Nairobi and its environs. So one of the evenings we spent walking around and discussing with all manner of people doing micro to small enterprises. As evening approached I started seeing an increasing number of young women on the streets or outside buildings despite the fact that many of the people were rushing home to beat the 10.00 PM curfew. Being not new in Nairobi I obviously knew many of these roaming around town are in the oldest profession – prostitution. I have heard stories from Taxi drivers especially those on online platforms mention that the biggest consumers of their services also are in this trade. There are even Social Media platforms groups say in Facebook with such connection sites.
With the curiosity I have gained over time doing all manner of research, I have sought I sought to dig deeper in what drives many of these who a large number look decent to such a dangerous or say health risk pone trade. While at it I have visited several towns and shopping centers around the country in course of work and have found that it is a booming industry. This one plus the cheap alcohol and to some extent drugs is too common especially among young generations if the many stories I have been told is anything to go by.
One time I meet some young people in a dingy place while doing my research talking a lot of cheap alcohol and others who could not hide that they are in the old profession trade. I did ask some young men present why they engage in destructive habits. The key reason they gave is they hardly get enough work to guarantee a good flow in income. Unemployment they said is the biggest killer for young people. The little they get in some hustles here and there is hardly enough to sustain themselves or their families decently. Thus to manage their misery they have to look at what can help them even temporarily forget their suffering.
Curiously, every town and shopping center in Kenya has seen growth in prostitution based on observations. While at times you can blame greed for some, the situation of unemployment is hurting many families and young people. Many graduates can hardly get jobs to do. The jobs available for many are temporary jobs in construction sites or some hustles some of which fade away after some time. In other words, they are not continuous in providing occupation for long. Prostitution I was told is one key employment occupation for ladies after they try finding some decent jobs and fail. Some do also come from broken families and/failed marriages. In some places, it is not unusual to find so many young girls who are single mothers after getting pregnant and not married trying to eke a living, by all means, possible to sustain themselves and the children. It is a social dynamics that were hitherto not too common years gone by.
But the key risk to our population outside the mess visited us as a country by corruption and tribalism lies with unemployment and poverty. These two have the potential to destroy society in a big way and destroy many generations to come if not tamed. Yet with the Kenyan economy has had issues for many years where the population growth outmatched favorable economic dynamics you surely expect this to come to bear to the people. When entrepreneurship is touted as the cure to the mess we are in, it’s part of the ostrich burying the head on the sand and hoping things just work out dictum. They fail to mention that a lot needs to improve in the economy to accommodate the many micro and small enterprises to emerge. Besides this, we need medium and large enterprises to absorb a lot of labor especially in sectors such as manufacturing and tourism where have large gaps to fill or huge opportunities for growth. In a situation where the economy is not able to accommodate the weight of all manner and large quantities of enterprises failure rate is quite high. That is the situation we have in Kenya and consequently so many people living in poverty or hand to mouth kind of economy.
This should inform why the hustler movement politics that promises to turn the tide on the economy and fortunes of everybody especially the downtrodden is so popular especially in Rift Valley and Central Kenya. It may not be built on a sound economic paradigm but it is nonetheless very catchy and popular. This is the kind of popular politics with huge potential to propel Deputy President William Ruto to power. You can’t blame him as clever politics is to find opportunities to sell your philosophy or message to power you to power.
Politics aside, we do have serious economic challenges and this is what is leading to a lot of sin trade like prostitution, cheap alcohol, drugs, and so on. It is easy to condemn them but what viable alternative are we offering to sustain these people’s livelihoods? It is not the best way to make their livelihood but what else do they do in especially a difficult economy. Obviously, I don’t defend dangerous or health risk sin trade but realistically and pragmatically I can only point to this rise in the number of sin trade of this nature as a problem that lies squarely in the economy and which needs to be addressed urgently. In a situation where graduates and all manner of those graduating or leaving school are not assured of decent jobs or sustainable enterprises in large numbers, it points to a growing problem.
Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
The Writer is a Political, Economic and Social Analyst and Commentator, the Leader of a Leading Renewable Energy Organisation in Africa, Researcher, Consultant, and also represents Several Other Organisations in various capacities including being the Senior Executive of one of the Auto Industry Associations in Kenya.
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