Once upon a time there was a local activist who employed unique tactics to get Kenyans to hear his message.
He chained himself to the gates of Nyayo House and caught our attention. Nonetheless, we all wondered if his style was effective in disseminating his message. He heckled dignitaries and suffered the consequences of such audacious actions; we all pitied him and his family.
Today, he is easily granted a permit to hold a procession on our streets… and neither is he tear-gassed along the way. Now, when he talks, our leaders pay attention.
Though it is not my nature to use such techniques, I have learnt from the said gentleman that tenacity pays off. I speak of him with respect for gaining credibility as an activist and for the lesson that we must never tire of doing good.
I tell this anecdote as a prelude to saying that I will maintain my passion for the youth agenda, although some may question my voice.
Earlier this week I attended, as a speaker, a youth Summit dubbed ‘Kenya Youth Empowerment and Employment Initiative (KYEEI)’; thanks to Nazarene University in collaboration with USAid and other partners.
The purpose of the summit was to identify challenges and come up with possible solutions to getting our youth trained and employed.
In my interaction with young people, I often get to hear their dreams and goals for their lives and this country. I say, with utmost respect, that our government fails them by treating them like babies.
In coming up with a youth program (such as the widely hyped Kazi Kwa Vijana), there ought to be greater consultation with the users instead of the unsustainable spoon feeding that we see today.
If you ask young people to come work for a quick buck… they will show up in droves, and leave when the well runs dry. But if the same money was channelled towards programs vetted by the youth for their singular benefit, you would be assured that they would work harder to ensure the longevity of that source of income.
In my opinion, there is still a lot of room for running public-private partnerships that cater to this age group which constitutes a third of our population. For example, every employer will tell you that there is always more demand for labour at the work place.
However, financial limitations do not allow them to become a training ground for new job market entrants. So the problem persists with ninety percent of the unemployed youth unable to acquire vocational skills.
Suppose the government shouldered a large portion of the financial burden for placing youth in organisations where they can get on the job training, coaching and mentoring? Wouldn’t that satisfy the need for training and in turn fulfil some goals of vision 2030 as well as meeting the MDGs?
The financial burden is no doubt huge for a country on the recovery process, but there are other alternative forms of rewards and financial incentives like tax credits and rebates that would accomplish the underlying goal.
Another area where we have enormous potential for meeting the needs of our youth is in promoting a certain level of nationalism. Because we desire to be a global economy, we must put into operation practices that neither harm our global outlook nor destroy job opportunities for our youth.
I am told for instance, that you might find our brothers of Asian-origin hawking their products in some parts of Nairobi. Whereas we are indebted to them for the speed and innovation with which they make our road infrastructure, I fear that we are allowing them to take over opportunities for our young people.
We can create employment in this arena, for example by putting in place measures that foreigners who wish to operate in Kenya must employ a certain percentage of locals. They should also be prodded to purchase some non-core work tools and items from the local market so that we are not relying extensively on imports to run our economy. Why, for example, should these brothers be able to import everything from trucks to wheelbarrows?
Having said that, we as Kenyans must learn the art of adding value to our local products so that they compete favourably in international markets. Herein also lies an opportunity for setting up government funded incubation centres that enable the youth to learn the processes of adding value to products and eventually take over the running of such enterprises.
Invariably, opportunities for meeting the needs of our young people exist but we must work together (youth, government and private sector) to harness them.
Personally, I will not tire from singing this song… till we see progress and renew the hope of our youth.