The appointment of more young people to the Cabinet in the recent reshuffle gave Kenyans fresh optimism that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration has realised the need to improve and secure the future of the youth.
And while these appointments are expected to shape new policies that will address the plight of the youth, it is hoped that more youth will be accommodated so that they can define their path on economic inclusiveness.
Kenya has a wrong tradition of viewing youth as leaders of tomorrow. Ironically, a good number of the current crop of leaders began their careers at a very tender age and with very little experience.
Appointing seven youth in the government — one as young as 28 — was no mean feat going by past experience.
Although the youth drive the country’s economy through their participation in the private sector, youth creativity, energies and dynamism has always been overlooked when it comes to public service appointments.
Going forward, the government has no choice but to include and work with the youth if the country is to move forward, considering that more than 80 per cent of the population is under 35. The country’s median age is 19.
The large population of the youth means that young people are Kenya and cannot be left behind — the demographic should be seen as an opportunity, not a challenge.
Even the drafters of the Constitution were cognisant of this fact and realised the urgent need to bring youth on board by creating room to enact laws that create opportunities for them.
Article 55 obliges the State to take appropriate measures to ensure socioeconomic and political development of youth through education, training and employment.
The Article gives Kenyan youth a new claim. For example, youth programmes and projects are now an inalienable right.
It’s very encouraging that everywhere one goes in Kenya, one can see how sharp, astute, tolerant, thoughtful and entrepreneurial our young people are despite the daunting challenges — some of which seem to be unsolvable.
And so, the question then becomes: what are the ways in which we can create pathways for youth to take up more leadership roles?
Are there ways in which we can knock down some of the barriers that discourage young people about a life of service? And if there are, how do we work with them to knock down those barriers?
Kenya will only become great if it allows its young citizens to take part in decision-making in all spheres of development.
This is important because these are the people who have the energy and are supposed to be gradually prepared for the future.
However, we must acknowledge that youth leadership that is based only on age is not a silver bullet.
There is a need for vision and values. There are plenty of young leaders who lack vision and values, who are in positions of leadership and have already embraced the bad politics that characterises our country.
Mr Obonyo is the author of Conversations about the Youth in Kenya. [email protected]