Youth must be at the centre of the development agenda

Saturday March 24 2018

By RAPHAEL OBONYO
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The truce reached recently by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his political rival Raila Odinga offers the country hope that inclusivity, a much debated issue in the country, will finally be actualised.

The zeal with which various politicians across the political divide and other leaders have continued to embrace the coming together of the two sides gives optimism that we are headed for good days.

As we move forward, the players steering this process must ensure that all groups and communities have an equal share in Kenya’s progress.

Debate on inclusivity has gained prominence in politics and a major shift is necessary to expand areas of focus to include participation in socio-economic growth.

YOUTH

One cannot speak of political and socio-economic inclusion without mentioning the youth, a constituency that has suffered a great deal due to lack of deliberate policy initiatives to empower them.

The machinery the country intends to put in place to heal the divide must be inclusive, relevant and receptive to young people.

With 80 per cent of its population under the age of 35 years, and a median age of 19 years, Kenya is one of the most youthful nations in the world.

One wonders why the government has, over the years, looked helpless in tackling youth problems, appearing to lose focus on every initiative it crafts – especially on joblessness – the mother of all challenges.

DEVELOPMENT

With creativity, innovativeness and energy brought about by young age, the youth is one of the greatest assets for any country craving for economic prosperity.

The government has already identified four pillars that will guide Jubilee’s second term in office.

Having now buried the hatchet between the government and opposition leaders, deliberate efforts need to be made to include the youth in all spheres of life.

Otherwise, their alienation and exclusion will remain a huge threat to social cohesion and political stability.

Kenya has recorded steady economic growth, with major infrastructure projects under construction that have created more jobs.

However, there are no elaborate plans to create economic opportunities that can feed from these infrastructural projects.

JOBS

The population of the youth is growing rapidly and the country is getting younger every day.

And so is the growing number of youth with good education but unemployed.

The formal economy in Kenya is not structured in a manner to cater for all graduating students.

The country has been slow in creating strategies in the wake of this challenge by creating other platforms for meaningful economic engagement.

As rightly stated by Mr Siddharth Chatterjee, the UN Resident Coordinator for Kenya, the youth must be at the centre of the development agenda.

POLICY

The agenda, he said, should focus on four key areas: education and skills, empowerment, employment and equity.

More efforts and resources should be put into creating jobs and skills for the youth.

The government’s intention to empower the youth has been good.

Coming from a marginalised background, an element of affirmative action is needed.

RAPHAEL OBONYO, Nairobi.