Within the context of the President’s ‘Big Four’ agenda, the objective that has, perhaps, received the most attention is Jubilee’s goal to create over a million jobs in a bid to curb youth unemployment.
Rightly so. It is, indeed, a big undertaking but, for the record, we will not capitulate on it. We stand by our commitment unequivocally. We also stand by another value we believe in and have championed from day one — and which I want to emphasise again now, in the shadow of our recently unveiled agenda: The shared responsibility we all have for the future of Kenya.
There is what the government can and should do: Create the right regulatory environment for business; engage constructively with the private sector; secure the right bilateral opportunities on the world stage; change national policy within key sectors such as health, agriculture, education and energy; invest in security; expand infrastructure; and strengthen institutions.
That is our job. And while the road ahead may be winding, we will deliver — in the same way that we delivered rural electrification, the SGR, free maternal healthcare and education reform, among other commitments. That said, there is also what Kenyans can do and, fortunately for us, Kenyans have shown time and again that they, too, can deliver.
Kenyans have always understood the wisdom and power of working together. That is how we won independence from colonialism. That is how we delivered the multi-party era. That is how we ushered in a new Constitution. That is how we have responded to numerous crises over the years and how we emerged intact and united as a country.
We know that we are greater than the sum of our parts. We understand that nothing worth remembering is ever achieved unilaterally; that it is always the culmination of diverse efforts — everybody doing their part. So, we “Buy Kenya” to build Kenya. We “Tembea Kenya” when tourism earnings are down and remind the world of our self-reliance. In the face of challenges and opportunities, we show up and we do what we must. What we can.
We must maintain this spirit beyond the next five years and transmit it to future generations. Since we agree with the democratic principle that the government belongs to the people, we must continue to concede that public service is not the preserve of civil servants — it is the work of everyone.
Which is why the government is committed to creating opportunities not just for the advancement of all individuals but also for all to contribute to one another’s advancement.
Governments do not have a monopoly of talent, time, ingenuity and resources and cannot unilaterally offer the rich, multi-faceted and inspiring human contributions citizens can. True, these contributions cannot always be quantified in monetary terms but are, nonetheless, invaluable and critical to economic development.
Take, for instance, a platform like G-United National Volunteer Programme. We launched G-United in 2014 to give the youth a chance to gain transferable experience that makes them attractive to employers while volunteering to help early primary school children learn to read.
Participants have reached thousands of learners. Last year, a high-proportion of them reported that it helped them to gain invaluable skills — such as communication, personal organisation and people management.
They are also contributing to the transformation of communities: Many initiate community service projects to improve the health and wellness of the students they work with, address environmental issues in the communities and equip local younger people with the tools they require to navigate the emotional and psychological complexities of life and make smart choices.
Over the next few weeks, the programme’s fourth cohort of 1300 volunteer graduate youth will join the ranks of their predecessors and contribute to a legacy of collaborative change. The fourth cohort will be serving in 20 counties other than theirs, reaching over 30,000 learners in 650 schools to improve education outcomes and support community projects. Youth may apply at www.g-united.co.ke.
G-United is just one of many examples that demonstrates the kind of service and spirit we need — a personal philanthropy that helps us to develop our country and build on our achievements. Fortunately, although the programme is only open to the youth, the way of life, and the attitude of generosity, are open to all.
As we embrace them, one million jobs will seem like a drop in the ocean of what we will achieve. Together.
Mr Ruto is the Deputy President of Kenya.