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Youth taking our public sector a notch higher

By Andrew Levi | Dec 18th 2021 | 2 min read

Our youth are the golden thread at the centre of our national fabric of innovation. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

We are living in an age when need for government effectiveness and innovation seems more pressing. During this Covid-19 global pandemic, we have witnessed true genius, foresight and utility of innovations like M-Pesa, Huduma centres and e-government services.

Without these, about 72 per cent of Kenyans outside towns would have to risk travelling city-wards to access basic public services like birth and death certificates, passports, driving licences or business permits. Still, all of us would be at risk of mortal peril with every cash-based transaction to procure such services.

As key providers of M-Pesa, Huduma Centre and e-government services, our youth are the golden thread at the centre of our national fabric of innovation. Forming majority of our IT systems developers, network security specialists, customer care agents and data enumerators, the role our youth have played in supporting innovative public service delivery is often understated.

Take, for example, Rose Wachuka, a former cabinet adviser and Oxford alumna, who helped rethink and coordinate operational efficiencies across Kenya’s Education, Foreign Affairs and Sports ministries, all before the age of 35; before recently joining the first female Chief Justice.

This shows Kenyan youth are ready to amplify innovation across government, helping to better design citizen-focused systems, processes and services. Younger public officers are capable of redefining protracted problems; and more open to doing things differently. Kenya’s contemporary challenges such as Covid-19 and mounting public debt demand this level of innovative, intergenerational thinking and acting.

The benefit infusing innovative young talent into the public service has been demonstrated in similar countries such as Ghana, where the government, working in partnership with Emerging Public Leaders, runs a public service fellowship which competitively recruits and develops 20 youth annually.

Besides honing their technical competencies, over a two-year period the Fellows receive world-class, innovative public sector-specific managerial training and career development support. On November 23, 2021, the Public Service Commission of Kenya teamed up with two partners to launch the Public Service Emerging Leaders Fellowship Programme, bringing this youth-led public service leadership development model here.

As in Ghana, the fellowship will be a game-changer for realisation of our national aspirations and raising the profile of our public service in Africa. This is one of the ways the public sector can become more efficient, agile and demographically representative.

While youth join the government all the time, what distinguishes this fellowship is the intentionality and foresight seeking to shape young future public service leaders early on in their government careers.

The benefit would be a civil service that is pace-setting not pace-taking. A civil service that explores current innovation trends, for debt management and tax collection.

 -The writer is senior manager at Global Strategy and Operations

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