By Public Watchdog
Last week, a group of youth representing many African countries held an exceptional meeting at the United Nations Environment Programme’s ( UNEP) headquarters, a conducive green-lawned environment at Gigiri, Nairobi, to discuss challenges and possible solutions facing a growing restless generation as well as to give impetus to volunteerism.
A welcome development and resolution of the conference was the launch of the East Africa Volunteerism Programme.
Every speaker at the youth meeting — that included political and corporate leaders led by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and celebrated industrialist and philanthropist Dr Manu Chandaria — emphasised the need for youth empowerment programmes.
Why? The statistics are startling — an estimated six million Kenyan youth are presently unemployed, and projections put the cumulative at 24 million by the year 2030 when Kenya’s population is expected to hit 60 million.
Further, over 75 per cent of the population is under 35 years of age. The question therefore begs; who will be Kenya’s political youth empowerment champion? What, then, are the compelling factors in determining such a political champion?
First, we must determine who is genuinely seeking to convert the youth energy not just for political support, but also as harnessed power to drive economic growth through youth-centred empowerment programmes.
The promises by aspirants will be far and wide in the crowded political environment we are witnessing and which offers what appears at the face-value to be many choices but in reality boil down to limited pragmatic choices. How? In hindsight we now know that the youth become valuable political assets as elections draw closer, and many political leaders across the political divide come up with impressive youth policy empowerment programmes that, unfortunately, become abandoned assets until the next election cycle.
How? Youth have limited political influence in the running of government, as such role is conveniently taken over by powerful moneyed and politically-connected influence peddlers that corruptly capture, fuel and control the political system.
In a way, these political and economic actors that constitute less than 1% of the population influence and control policies that support wealth accumulation by the favoured few in our political system. This is true today as it was yesterday, and is predictably true tomorrow.