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Giving youths jobs best way to achieve 'shared prosperity'

By Wilson Sossion | February 1st 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta at Sagana State Lodge, Nyeri County, to discuss BBI.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) offers a ray of hope through the nine key issues. The issues, currently being discussed, are ethnic antagonism and competition; lack of national ethos; inclusivity; devolution; divisive elections; safety and security; corruption; shared prosperity; responsibilities and rights.

Out of the nine, however, the one of greatest interest to Kenyan workers and the youth is 'shared prosperity'. What or who is the source of the unequal prosperity in Kenya? What should be done to ensure decent income for Kenyans? What undermines innovation, growth and job creation in Kenya?

BBI has solutions to these questions. The document observes that ethnic profiling, bigotry, corruption, unregulated “free market” especially “willing buyer willing seller” policy in land deals, skewed infrastructure and youth unemployment are the major causes of unequal sharing of property.

The document offers the most appropriate way forward and how to come out of this quagmire: improving equity in health and education access; addressing the quality of education including teacher-student ratio in all counties and expanding infrastructure in marginalised regions as stipulated in the Sessional Paper No 10 of 1965, among others.

The BBI outlines how resources should follow devolved functions; how the State should assist expand employment opportunities; make devolved governments accountable and how to reform the agricultural sector, including the overhaul of the National Cereals and Produce Board.

The Kenyan economy is unable to produce employment opportunities that can meet expectations of young Kenyans. That is the reason BBI recommends a fundamental change of course in the management of the economy so as to achieve “escape velocity”.

The BBI seeks to reform economic planning and policy to prioritise manufacturing opportunities in labour-intensive sectors such as agriculture, livestock and fishing. Both levels of government are obligated to promote cottage industries.

To achieve shared prosperity, Kenya must generate enough jobs, particularly for young people. It is not enough to improve economic output. We must entirely transform the way our economy operates if we are to deal with the unemployment crisis.

As we embrace BBI, it is critical that the correct diagnosis be given for what ails us if we are to genuinely achieve shared prosperity. A lot of public commentaries on “shared prosperity” dwell on how to share the cake, and less on how to grow it.

We are more educated than any previous generation of Kenyans, and more exposed to the world, latest technologies and industries, yet we continue to languish in the bottom league of global prosperity.

Half a century after independence, we should admit that although what we are doing is necessary, it is inadequate to meet our goals of transformation. Kenya has been unable to come close, economically, to the so-called developed world. It is for that reason that BBI admits that the present trajectory of our economy will be unable to produce employment that can match the expectations of young Kenyans. We need a paradigm shift in the manner we create employment opportunities.

BBI was developed with the best interests of workers and the country in general. The framers of the document felt that the constitutional amendments could benefits workers.

Employment bureaus

The document guides the national government on how to devolve employment services to the counties in a bid to reduce joblessness. The national government also seeks to create county government employment bureaus to benefit youths seeking employment at the county level.

The initiative is expected to widen the outreach of the fledgling National Employment Authority (NEA). Legally, NEA is mandated to perform three major functions -- provision of public employment services; registration of employment agencies as well as offering internship services. Sadly, since it was established it has not had proper government backing. However, through the BBI, NEA will be fully functional to the benefit of Kenyan workers and youths.

NEA’s mandate on the provision of public employment services revolves around the registration of Kenyans seeking employment, linking job seekers with opportunities, assisting employers to recruit workers with appropriate skills and provision of labour markets information, especially on employment matters. However, while discharging its mandate, NEA has faced logistical and legal bottlenecks, which we believe will be addressed through BBI.

-Mr Sossion is a nominated MP and Secretary-General of Knut

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021
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