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It takes effort to uplift the youth

OPINION
By Fredrick Banja | Aug 23rd 2020 | 3 min read
By Fredrick Banja | August 23rd 2020
OPINION
Mr. Fredrick Banja (PHOTO: FILE)

Active involvement of the youth in major decisions is the missing magic in attempts to take Kenya to the next level. Fact is, the future of a nation depends on the vitality of the youth. In Kenya, young people have their enormous potential lying idle.

By taking up leadership opportunities in social, political and economic spheres, the youth can make a big difference, their age-old challenges notwithstanding.

According to recent estimates, Kenya has a youth population of more than 10 million, which translates to at least 20 per cent of the overall population. These numbers denote what experts call the ‘a youth bulge’.

The youth are an integral part of the population and will remain so for the foreseeable future, Admittedly, their large numbers makes them a force for a positive economic future. There hasn’t been a better time to address the risks and challenges the youth face. Margaret Kobia, the Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary, has work cut out for her.

A worrying problem is unemployment. The World Bank’s youth unemployment report places Uganda youth unemployment at 4 per cent, Tanzania at 5.2 per cent and Kenya at 22.2 per cent.

And, according to UNDP’s Human Development Index report of 2017, Kenya’s unemployment rate is the highest in East Africa, hitting 39.1 per cent meaning that it is higher than Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

As has been the case, previous failures to offer enough education and employment opportunities for this segment has come with serious economic, political, and social concerns. There’s need to make the youth useful in every discourse.  

But again to become resourceful, youth need attitudinal change. They need motivation from peers besides a favourable policy environment where their energies and potential can be tapped. Kobia and her team should explore every option to crack this challenge. 

Admittedly, many youths prefer a fancy lifestyle and adore white-collar jobs. They link leadership with quick riches. Instead of believing in themselves and using their numbers to deliver change, they adore leaders who brainwash them and use them to unleash political violence. Many youths even sell their votes to the highest bidders not knowing they are betraying their future.

We don’t inspire hope when the youth, despite their huge potential, are told “you should act your age, you should be seen and not heard and, what do you know? You’re just a kid and you’ll understand it someday, just you wait”.

It’s time to mobilise the youth around sound ideologies. And the creation of job opportunities is a good way to start. This is why the internship programme recently launched by the Public Service Commission is commendable.

The government can leverage Information and Communication Technology to make the youth more useful. ICT has the potential to influence the way the youth think, act and behave. The Internet is equally a powerful information tool that will expose them to an avalanche of opportunities. The Jubilee administration, which once described itself as a digital government, should know this better.

Then there’s the issues of recreation and community service. It is time county governments established programmes that lead to personal development of every youth towards personal discipline and leadership. We need better access to financial services and resources. Can financial institutions relax requirements in terms of what young people, in their organised groups, need to qualify for loans? This group hardly has access to property that can pass for collateral.

Parliament should push to have Kenya transit from social protection to a welfare State. This will allow a situation where those seeking jobs and are qualified get State support to land employment opportunities.

Where we are now, a few home truths have to be digested. We all have a role in empowering the youth. It’s not just the government.

- The writer is an ICT consultant

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