The idea of forming a National Youth Council (NYC) six years ago was a noble one. Unfortunately, the institution has largely remained ineffective in spite of its roles being clearly spelt out and well anchored in the National Youth Council Act 2009.
The delay and uncertainty of electing new NYC board members and executive at the national level have left the institution almost dysfunctional. Most of the NYC members have transitioned and are no longer youth, leaving the institution without the steam and strategy despite its broad mandate. The drafters of the law intended to create formal mechanisms and structures to remedy lack of proper engagement, which youth blames for their low participation in all the national matters. It was envisaged that by strengthening the administration of youth programmes through meaningful participation at all levels, strong youth-focused policies would finally be channelled out.
And since the national and county governments have failed to create other strong structured forums that can empower the youth, it is inevitable the NYC must be strengthened to create a safety valve that will see more youth get representation in all spheres including governance.
A revitalised NYC will also give the youth an opportunity to meaningfully influence their participation in the economic development. The Jubilee government, earlier this year, spelt out its four development agenda- affordable healthcare, affordable housing, manufacturing and food security that are expected to transform the society.
But going by the recent years when the country recorded a significant economic growth and the youth still laments of high unemployment level, there is need to have a new dialogue as the government rolls out the four pillars. Kenya’s economic growth has over the years failed to factor its impact on social-economic issues such as how to address unemployment among the youth.
The proponent of the NYC expected a well-operationalised body that could mobilise youth from sub-county, county to the national level to address many youth problems. This was meant to guarantee the participation of ordinary folks from all over the country, including regions that have over the years felt left out on national issues.
Without such a structured mechanism, youth will not be able to participate in a meaningful way in the ongoing development agenda. The government has in the past created many initiatives to empower youth.
That is laudable. But these programmes have not yielded the expected results making it imperative to have a body such as the NYC to help articulate debate and shape the narrative of how to mainstream the youth agenda in the country’s development.
As we seek to have a transparent and fairly elected NYC officials, there is also strong persuasion to make the NYC more inclusive and integrate all youth networks under its umbrella. The previous election campaigns for various positions were intense, requiring one to have immense financial resources to secure a position; a move that unintentionally eliminated leaders with good credentials from taking leadership mantle.
Going forward, there is need to review the NYC Constitution and its workings to smoothen elections, promote inclusiveness and broaden its mandate as stipulated in National Youth Council Act 2009 as well as enhance the funding of the institution among other things.
Mr Obonyo is the author of ‘Conversations About the Youth in Kenya’. Email; [email protected]