BY MACHEL WAIKENDA
The International Labour Organisation estimates youth unemployment at an all-time high at 85 million youth, representing 44 percent of the total number of jobless persons worldwide.
Youth participation in economic and political processes encourages youth to become active members of a democratic society with great sense of belonging.
The youth must take the rightful leadership positions from political backbenchers to the front row as part of the capacity building to entrench economic and political posterity measures.
Public recognition of young people as key actors in social and economic development processes of a country is a prerequisite in positioning for a massive economic advancement.
If the last few months are anything to go by, youth participation in decision-making, are testimony to the successful efforts by the Jubilee government to engage youth through better policy formulation, implementation and evaluation.
In the past, youths continued to face institutionalized prejudice and political exclusion in many quarters that see youth as lacking expertise, experience, capacity, or drive to do what is expected.
Consequently, we are struggling with the inevitable end result of high levels of unemployment, insecurity and sophisticated crimes like cybercrime and banking fraud.
However, rather than being viewed as a problem or risk to be contained, tackled or solved, youth should be recognized as social actors with skills and capacities to bring about constructive solutions.
It is gospel truth that economic development is inseparable from existing political goodwill.
This way, youths feel they are an integral part of nation building and become a pillar of consistency and growth over successive governments.
Young people represent some of the most dynamic, creative and talented segment in society, but at the same time often represent some of the most vulnerable and most powerless in the labour market.
But it is paramount that policymakers ‘get-it-right’ by and for youth. With the vast untapped talent and expertise among young people, majority of who are unemployed, is a fundamental issue of concern that cannot be wished away. Rather, measures must be put in place to reverse this trend.
The consequences of not involving youth can range from the development of ineffective policies to more serious negative effects for society as a result of the consistent exclusion or alienation of youth from both leadership and economic strategic planning.
Recurring tensions in society can manifest themselves in forms that seriously threaten the social fabric, such as crime, debauchery, prostitution, child commercial sex and violence. These are some of the grey areas that demand immediate intervention and are all pegged to one single factor: poverty!
In worst cases, a poor economic and social environment can foster conditions in which youth without prospects are manipulated by leaders, and are recruited or forced into armed conflicts, both within their own borders and also in neighbouring countries.
Currently, the country’s security agencies are on high alert over terrorism. Worse still, intelligence reports indicate recruitment into insurgency groups, which, have no respect for life and have no place in modern society, now target vulnerable youths in schools in the city and rural areas alike.
Under the leadership of President Kenyatta, the Jubilee administration has taken tremendous strides by initiating major flagship projects to propel national economic growth.
Just to mention a few, the recently launched Uwezo Fund is a major boost alongside the first ever deliberate move by any government to allocate 30 per cent of all government tenders be awarded to youth and women.
Moreover, the government has outlined a noble framework also reflected in the Jubilee Manifesto to allocate 2.5 percent of the national revenue annually a kitty designed towards establishing a Youth Enterprise Capital/Fund devised along the CDF model to enable youth access interest-free business financing either individually or in groups without the requirement of traditional collateral.
This motivation has aroused a sense of belonging, responsibility and opened up avenues for talented youth to start up projects.
As I have written here before, youth unemployment is a pointer to economic waste owing to the large pools of accessible human capital that are untapped. Examples abound where they have posed devastating and long-term grief when and where this trend is not remedied.
We need to foster patriotism and sense of belonging. To achieve this, supporting government efforts to mainstream youth participation in leadership positions and acting with the advice and wisdom of our elders is inevitable.
Also, to our young people, we are the future, leaders who will transit generations to generations and we must, therefore, act responsibly and take up leadership positions in whatever capacity and together we will become achievers. For we subscribe to a common purpose: wealth creation and raising standards of living of all Kenyans.
(The writer is a Political and Communications consultant. Twitter @MachelWaikenda)