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How we can harness opportunities for our young people

COMMENTARY
By Ben Mokamba | June 28th 2019

Often when we speak about young people, the conversation veers into a murky world filled with gloom, doom and despair. The focus of many a conversation revolves around the myriad challenges that young people face, rather than on strengths, and the many opportunities that are at our disposal.

True to this, when we look at young people, we do so within the narrow lenses of an apparent unemployment crisis, vulnerability to drug and substance abuse, our limited capacity to effectively engage in entrepreneurial activities and an identity crisis resulting from unprecedented social and cultural change.

Indeed, we are living in an age full of uncertainty. What’s more, the growing menace of mental health issues that seem to correlate with the scores of challenges, mostly socio-economic ones, make it seem like the future of our young people is at best bleak, and at worst unreachable.

Granted, all these challenges cannot be overlooked for they exist and require urgent intervention. However, starting today, I believe a time has come to change the narrative about young people. In this respect, when we turn our attention to the youth, we should view the challenges that they are facing in a wholesome context, within which we can also appreciate the strengths and immense opportunities that are at their disposal. 

The economy

First, the fact that the youth form about 70 per cent of our entire national demographic should inspire hope, because this means that our country is blessed with a large pool of skills and talents capable of putting our nation on the map as a socio-economic powerhouse. Admittedly, these young people are immensely talented and with proper planning, the talents can be harnessed to create jobs for other young people, contribute to the economy and leave behind a legacy.

I come across many young people who leave me awed by the immense talents they display, especially in the arts and sports sector. In addition, many young people are imbued with innovative ideas, entrepreneurial versatility and creative skills that require the right framework to breathe life into them. Arguably, our young people are the drivers of the global technological revolution.

Many technological innovations that have amazed the world begun in the mind of a young person in this part of the globe. In fact, the world is still coming to terms with the positive impact that mobile money innovations have had. The entire globe is on its heels to catch up with such creativity. 

With the exponential rate of advancements in technology, young people now have access to many opportunities that were previously unavailable because of the limits imposed by our geographical reality. As we, the young people become exposed to the global world, our minds expand, and we are able to look at our nation in the context of the entire globe, and gain perspective of our place in the grand scheme of things. Thanks to the power of social media, young people across the world can connect, share experiences and open up about challenges. 

Providing opportunities

Second, adage has it that we should bend a tree while it is still supple. This saying has proved correct in many instances throughout history. Societies that turn more attention to their young people are more secure in their future than societies that turn their backs on their youth. Our young people are a blessing to the nation, but for this blessing to be realised, there needs to be pragmatic policy interventions that bring on board all the stakeholders and responsibility holders for the youth.

Gladly enough, we have such interventions in our nation. For instance, the private sector, in conjunction with the Government, has become intentional in providing opportunities for businesses owned by young people. In April this year, three Jua Kali artisans were contracted to make 8,400 windows and 7,000 doors for Nairobi’s Parkroad Estate under the Big Four Agenda’s Affordable Programme.

In addition to this, the Kenya Youth Development Policy 2019 is coming to life. This Policy seeks to promote holistic empowerment and participation of the youth in socio-economic and political development for themselves, the nation, and the future generations. The Policy intends to fully grasp the aspirations and hope that young people have in our nation despite the obvious challenges.

Progressively, we can grow into a society where youth have an equal and responsible opportunity to realise their full potential and aspirations in socio-economic and political spheres, through honest and hard work. It is true then, that despite the challenges, something good is brewing for the young people.

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