NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 2 – A new initiative aimed at youth employment and empowerment was on Tuesday launched by President Mwai Kibaki.
President Kibaki said there was need to commence new partnerships and programs to empower youth in the country.
“Every year over 700,000 young Kenyans are joining the job market and we must seek ways of utilising the vast potential of our young people,” President Kibaki said.
The President noted that, on its part, his Government has for the past seven years rolled out wide-ranging programmes which have laid an important foundation to enable the current and future generations enjoy quality livelihoods.
“Besides the prudent management of the economy with a view to expanding economic opportunities for all, the Government has taken specific measures aimed at empowering the youth,” President Kibaki said.
The President was speaking when he officially opened the Kenya Youth Empowerment and Employment Initiative at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi.
President Kibaki cited the creation of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, the establishment of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, the Kazi Kwa Vijana Programme and the upgrading of youth polytechnics countrywide as some of his Government’s ongoing efforts to empower the country’s youth.
The Head of State noted that the Government has also passed the National Youth Council Act and initiated the modernisation programme of the National Youth Service (NYS) through acquisition of specialised machinery and equipment worth Sh4.3 billion.
The President pointed out: “As all Kenyans have witnessed, these measures have begun to bear fruit. By the close of last year, for example, the Kazi Kwa Vijana programme had benefited over 298,000 Kenyan youth. Moreover, over 200,000 new jobs can be directly attributed to beneficiaries of the Youth Enterprise Fund.”
Acknowledging that the country’s formal sector lacked the capacity to create the required number of jobs for the youth, President Kibaki encouraged more public –private sector partnerships in addressing challenges facing the youth.
He observed that the Youth Empowerment Summit availed not only an important forum to exchange ideas on one of the critical challenges facing the country but also offered better coordination of Government efforts and those of other stakeholders.
President Kibaki said: “I am optimistic that the outcome of this Summit will go a long way in empowering the youth as well as expanding employment opportunities.”
Noting that youth empowerment is a top priority for the Government’s national agenda, the President said the launched initiative was intended to create specific and measurable outcomes of fast tracking youth’s contribution towards national development.
He said: “This Summit is, therefore, timely and appropriate as it brings together leaders from government, education, business as well as faith and community based organisations. The summit aims at identifying barriers to youth employment and make actionable commitments to implementing solutions to youth empowerment in our country.”
The Head of State asserted that apart from creating partnerships among various stakeholders to address unemployment, the government looked forward to participants in the forum to invent creative solutions of eradicating barriers facing the youth in getting employed.
The President, at the same time, challenged the youth to pursue noble values, maintain high levels of discipline and to fully utilise available opportunities that would equip them with necessary skills to participate in nation building.
President Kibaki commended the organisers and sponsors of the initiative among them the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Africa Nazarene University, Equity Bank and USAID and asked them to monitor commitments made during the forum and to always provide him with regular reports on the progress.
Speaking during the occasion, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Prof Hellen Sambili said her ministry has developed a strategic plan geared towards addressing challenges facing the youth.
“This strategic plan offers a coherent road map to address challenges facing the youth including employment, empowerment and training,” the Minister said.
In his speech, US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger commended the Kenya Government for creating structures and systems that have prioritised the youth development agenda in the country.
Ambassador Ranneberger cited the Kazi kwa Vijana, the Youth Enterprise Development Fund and the National Youth Council Act as some of the Government’s efforts to entrench youth affairs in its policies.
The US Ambassador said the Government has also made significant achievement towards providing education opportunities to the youth through the successful implementation of the free primary education program and free tuition for secondary schools.
Other speakers included Nazarene University Vice-Chancellor Prof Leah Marangu and Equity Bank Chief Executive Officer Dr James Mwangi.
Also present were senior Government officials including the Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Amb. Francis Muthaura among others.