Youth must bargain for seats at the political high table

The August 9 General Election is different because it comes at a time when the economy is in the eye of a storm fomented by runaway inflation, high unemployment, and scepticism on whether the future will improve.

The Covid-19 pandemic, the Russian-Ukraine war and global logistical challenges are factors beyond Kenya’s control, but have nevertheless severely impacted our economy.

These reasons might explain why majority of parties and politicians are anchoring their promises on reviving the economy, which is in turn expected to create jobs and income generating opportunities for the youth who are bearing the biggest brunt of the challenges we are facing.

The youth must not let a good crisis go to waste. These challenges present an opportunity for them to bargain with political parties for a seat at the high table. Youth have the chance to organise and make political parties pledge to develop youth-specific policies that address fundamental youth aspirations.

An illustration of how a policy can make changes capable of improving lives can be drawn from the Ajira Digital Programme, an initiative that aims to empower over one million young people to access digital job opportunities. Under Ajira, about 700,000 Kenyans now source work from digital platforms.

There is also the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) programme, which has given youth the chance to participate in supplying goods and services to various ministries and other government bodies.

While we are still on the youth, specific policies such as allocating a set percentage of budgets to train, re-skill youth, access to credit or other programmes would make an even bigger difference in their lives in addition to the above examples and this is what they should be bargaining for.

The good news is that progress is already being made, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel because work done so far can be advanced or used as a blueprint for programmes.

For example, young people are organising to develop and or review all 47 county youth policies, which will be developed under the “Fursa In Democracy Challenge”, a National Youth Council initiative that aims at enhancing the participation by and role of the youth in the democratic election process. What is needed is a commitment from the political class.

Having such policies in place will give tangible opportunities for youths to tap the Sh370 billion counties have been allocated this fiscal year and open the door for them to be included in County Integrated Development Plans 2023-2028 formulation.

These actions can only be brought to life if the youth actively participate in inclusive politics from the ward to the national level. This is part of what has inspired our “Your commitment, Our vote, campaign” that we are running.

Mr Sasaka is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Youth Council under the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs