Why the youth will decide who becomes Kenya's next president

A previous political rally by Jubilee Party.

Youth eager to cure the mess created by their forebears stand poised to determine who clinches the presidency next year.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) plans to kick off mass voter registration next month, targeting six million youths who have attained voting age in the past five years.

Of these, four million are aged between 18 and 20 while those between 22 and 26 account for two million. This is the populace that was ineligible to vote in the last elections, but have since attained the legal voting age of 18 years.

It is this six million youth that have the power of tilting the scales in favour of any of the presidential front runners and understandably so, political parties are in a scramble to lock in the new numbers before D-day.

So much so that the major three horses in the race to enthrone themselves at State House have fashioned their campaign strategies and policies towards the youth.

According to data relayed by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the total youth population as at the 2019 census was 15,381,524. This accounted for the population aged between 16 and 33.

Based on this, Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi have all unveiled a youth agenda because of the political need to resonate with the young population.

Raila has been on the charm offensive in this front, recently evidenced by his attendance at the birthday party of one of his online supporters - a 22-year old - in Githunguri, Kiambu County.

Gideon Gichuki, a youth leader, was surprised when the former prime minister honoured his birthday invitation, which he had sent in jest.

A glimpse into Raila’s social media accounts also reveals a man on a mission to get the attention of a youth populace that can no longer countenance being grounded by the tribal politics that have ruled the day since time immemorial.

The former premier acknowledges that there is need to create a tax holiday for youth enterprises - minimise taxation of new and small youth-owned businesses by giving them a tax holiday of seven years, and, in addition, extending tax incentives to organisations and companies that offer employment to the youth.

He is also advocating for the redesigning, revamping and relaunching of Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) for the youth.

“This age group can bring limitless opportunities to our country, but only if they are trained and then provided with opportunities to implement their knowledge and skills. Creating opportunities, particularly jobs for these young people is the biggest challenge this country has to deal with going into the future. All our policies must reflect this reality,” states Raila.

He is also calling for a review of HELB loans by expanding the limit to reflect the cost of living in Kenya as it evolves, removing the interest rates accrued and CRB listing of the graduates. And in addition, increase and expand bursaries in tertiary institutions, again, to reflect the reality of the cost of living.

Then there’s Ruto whose political rhetoric of the bottom up economic approach has endeared him to the masses and particularly the youth who make up the majority of the mama mbogas, mkokoteni pushers, jua kali artisans and boda boda riders who he constantly refers to as "hustlers".

His targeted message is that if and when he forms government, the youth stand to benefit the most. His resolve is compounded by the fact that he does not shy away from splashing cash to endear himself to the youth whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Case in point, while in Kitui on Friday, the DP gave out Sh3 million to over 100 women groups and another Sh1 million to boda boda riders who are mostly youths.

Moreover, his campaign strategy is centred around re-stitching of Kenya’s economic policy fabric by creating employment for the youth, uplifting a plethora of the self-help groups, easing access to credit by youth, inculcating skills to the young through institutions such as the National Youth Service as well as developing tertiary institutions to benefit the same group of people.

“Young people of our nation are the greatest resource to use in the transformation of the country,” said Ruto in one of his tweets.

This was followed by a resolve to equip the youth with skills through the National Youth Service (NYS), noting that more funds have been allocated to the department to enroll more youth.

“Nothing will stop our agenda of organising the youth, developing their skills and engaging them in the NYS because they are catalysts for the development of this country,” said Ruto.

He further noted that the government is set to allocate Sh100 million to establish and equip technical institutes in each constituency to help cater for the training needs of the youth.

Mudavadi’s recent encounter with record holder and sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala also lifted the lid on his resolve to endear himself to the young populace. That, coupled with his recent appointment of a youthful ANC party secretary General Simon Kamau Gikuru.

While naming the new party secretary Mudavadi said, “ANC party has unveiled the youngest secretary-general for a political party in the country. We want to walk with the youth and ANC is going to become a party of the young people in Kenya. We are sending a strong signal that we are ready and want to incorporate the youth at all levels of leadership and government moving forward.”

And to end the "plight of the youth", Mudavadi promises to create jobs for the youth, by targeting incentives for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMSEs), manufacturing, agriculture and e-commerce.

Citing his Pesa Mfukoni economic policies that touch on key sectors that will fuel holistic growth, the ANC leader says that for the SMSEs to pick up and grow, he will offer incentives to enable them remain competitive. This, he says, will be coupled with creating laws and regulations that will focus on creating a conducive environment on investments, and eliminating impediments on investments.

[email protected]