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Peculiarly Kenyan occupations for your children

Fear of automation and disruptive change is everywhere. The traditional occupations are all under assault. The rise of artificial intelligence and robotics is expected to lay waste to so many traditional jobs across the world. Some think a third of all current jobs in the world could be rendered obsolete. Even the hallowed professions are not immune from the relentless onslaught of automation: lawyers, doctors and teachers are having to look nervously over their shoulders at the arrival of smart bots.

Here in Kenya, though, some occupations are unassailable. As you think hard about what training and preparation to give your children, you can rest assured that certain jobs are here to stay, for at least another generation. So as you consider career choices for your offspring, always look at the following future-proof peculiarly Kenyan occupations.

The first job that will always be there is FORENSIC AUDITOR. Mainstream auditors, it is true, have much to worry about. Artificial intelligence is indeed making great strides in this area. Auditors are keen to tell us that all they do is double-check a random set of transactions and entries every year; well, there’s smart software ready to do just that, way better than a human can.

A forensic auditor, however, is different. Here in Kenya we seem guaranteed to have a steady stream of procurement scandals, bank collapses and assorted corporate malfeasance for a long time yet. So there will always be a need for people to come in after the event on behalf of regulators or shareholders or aggrieved parties, and park themselves for many weeks at great cost unravelling who stole what, when. So go for this one, parents: it has a bright future.

The second guaranteed job is SYCOPHANT. Yes, Kenya always needs a very large number of stooges and acolytes. Around every person of means there is a veritable army of hangers-on, pretending to be intensely loyal in exchange for some of the takings. These people are perfectly willing to sit at the feet of the great personage, waiting for some crumbs to fall their way as the big man eats.

The good thing about this one is that few formal qualifications are needed. The only requirements are tribal kinship; a fawning attitude and deferential demeanour; and a readiness to play second (or even fifteenth) fiddle. The other good thing is that there is a range of activities on offer: from carrying bags and opening doors and waiting beneath trees; to answering phone calls and singing praises. The money is good, for as long as the main man or great gal is eating big. And who knows, your sidekick kid may grow to have his or her own sidekicks one day…

A third foolproof occupation: PROMISOR. Kenyans always listen to people who promise them things. The lovely thing is, none of the promises need to be kept. And there is a nice range of jobs on offer. You could be a politician promising rapid development, or jobs for relatives, in return for votes and the keys to the public purse; a pastor promising heaven in return for ‘seeds’; a pyramid scheme or betting company promotor promising instant riches, no hard work needed. Whatever the promise, there are millions of Kenyans willing to pay you and believe you and back you, even if the promisor is the only person ever enriched. So get your children to practise promising the earth, parents, and the earth shall be theirs.

Last one: FREELOADER. If all else fails, your kids could survive the way so many do: by grabbing everything that comes their way. So teach them to cart home everything they can from a hotel room when someone else pays for a night’s stay: toiletries, soaps, toilet paper, towels, slippers, hangers…even bedcovers. Show them how to eat to the point of painful engorgement at weddings; drink to the point of collapse on plane trips; load up on the employer’s stationery and consumables. If your kids are born losers, they could join so many other born losers and keep going just by freeloading.

So there you go. Let the prophets of doom not tell us we are finished. There is employment aplenty to be found out there, for years to come. You just have to know where to look and what to aim for.

Any other peculiarly Kenyan occupations you can think of? Let me know, and we’ll run a second part to this article.

(Sunday Nation, 29 May 2016)

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