Prioritising youth employment key to national development

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BY ANNE WAIGURU

Kenya is currently hosting the Special Summit on Youth Employment under the aegis of the International Conference on Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The summit runs between 20 to 24 July. In attendance are heads of states and governments alongside high-powered government delegations from the Great Lakes region.

This summit, a sequel to the 5th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Luanda, Angola on 15th January 2014 seeks to address “Youth Employment and Labour” an agenda that could not be dealt with then due to unavoidable circumstances.

However, given the significance and urgency of the topic in question, President Uhuru Kenyatta offered to host his peers from the region to critical matter. The hosting of the summit is itself symbolic in the sense that Kenya is keen to lead from the front in matters youth employment and empowerment.

Surrounding the quest for youth employment in this day and age are several realities that must be considered when formulating appropriate interventions. Among these realities is the fact that today, more than ever before, information technology has made it possible for youth from across the world to share ideas seamlessly and by so doing, collapse barriers hitherto posed by sheer distance.

This, in effect, means that worldviews shared by the youth right across the globe affect the manner in which young people interpret their world and react to the various stimuli that demand changes in perceptions. Obviously, the whole question of employment including matters of job creation and opportunities for gainful employment are affected by realities created by enhanced ability to cross-pollinate ideas seamlessly.

The fast mutating crisis of global capitalism alongside changing geo-political realities have a direct bearing on how jobs are created and how relevant the skills our youth possess remain compatible with modern realities and challenges. With this in mind, it behoves governments and youth empowerment solution providers to be extra vigilant in ensuring that training especially that of vocational nature is aligned with the changing demands of the world economy and more specifically in our case, with regional realities and challenges. In the same breath, training of young people should, now more than ever before, embrace continuing education aimed at updating skills a key priority.

Even as we equip our youth with requisite skills in order to maximise their chances of employability and capacity to carve decent living out of their day-to-day engagements, it is paramount that we address the question of work ethics and attitudes among our youth. Concerning work ethics, I am persuaded that unless work and its fruit are intertwined with honour and other forms of social credit, work and job opportunities alone will not translate into the social and economic development we envisage.

In other words, we must forge ways of encouraging our youth to view work as an honourable undertaking that bequeaths them favourable status in society. This meant that the sensibilities we impart on our youth must address issues of social decorum and decency alongside commitment to greater good for the society as a whole.

Regarding attitude, it is true that skills, however specialised, become a mere appendage when attended to by poor attitudes. The question of attitudes towards oneself, others and towards the nation must be emphasized if we are to change the fortunes of nations and create harmonious societies.

In order to give the youth of Kenya a chance to realise their dreams and put their talents and other endowments into gainful use the government has expanded opportunities by setting up several funds and incentives. These include, the Youth Fund, Uwezo Fund, Access to Government Procurement Services (AGPS) and Huduma Centres. The funds are designed to enable vulnerable groups, especially the youth, to access capital with which to start or grow existing enterprises.

Huduma Centres offer services otherwise domiciled across government departments under one roof thereby making it easy to complete registration and licensing within a short time. The AGPS is a specially designed opportunity that reserves 30 percent of all government procurement to vulnerable groups, youth included.

To further empower the youth of Kenya, my ministry has in the recent past organised the National Youth Convention where young people from right across Kenya interrogated the country’s leadership on the youth agenda.

Kenya is proud to host the ICGLR Special Summit on youth and will be glad to share her experiences on how we have addressed the challenge of youth empowerment as we learn from other countries in the region how the challenge has been countered. I believe that it is in sharing ideas and experiences that we shall, as a region, gain greater clarity in understanding how best to address possible future scenarios concerning youth empowerment.

This summit has the chance and the means to create a better horizon to transform the future prospects of our youth in a sustainable way.

(Waiguru is the Ministry of Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary)

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  • alondasugar

    I agree that the Youth and Uwezo Funds have the capacity to transform the lives of young entrepreneurs in Kenya. However, the approach the government has taken to disburse these funds is wanting. Putting these funds on balance sheets of mainstream financial institutions to then on-lend to youth groups/individuals has not deepened financial inclusion of youth as most of the FIs have not altered their lending practices, terms and conditions to suit start-up businesses common among this group. Also disbursing this funds without any training or capacity building to ensure the funds are put to good use is like giving a layman an AK47 with the safety lever off….disaster waiting to happen.

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