YOUTH CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN KENYA, A DILEMMA AMIDST SOARING UNEMPLOYMENT RATES

By Yegon Emmanuel

In the recent past, Kenya has been facing lots of challenges with regard to youth unemployment, poverty and inequality. There have been lots of cases of crime reported and the most recurrent reason has been unemployment of the youth who resort to other means of earning a living. Each year, approximately 500 000 youths graduate from universities and other institutions of higher learning. Out of this large number, only a small percentage is absorbed into the job industry. The remaining percentage remain hopeless and in the recent past there have been cases of students who have even studied up to masters level and still end up in tea plantations due to unemployment.

As a result of all these problems, the Kenyan government has tried to create opportunities for the youth that will help in lowering the rate of unemployment and also ensure that the youth are engaged in productive activities to avoid crime. In the year 2007, the government developed a plan, emphasizing the importance of a coordinated and multi-sectoral approach to addressing the problem of youth unemployment. Therefore in April 2009, the kazi kwa vijana (Work for Youth) programme was launched. It was aimed at the employment of youth in rural and urban areas in labor intensive public works projects, focusing on small projects that could be implemented rapidly. The government has also continually supported the youth through the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) providing young people with access to finances for self-employment and entrepreneurial skills development.

Closely related to the YEDF fund is the recent introduction of UWEZO Fund. This is a platform that ensures the organization of especially youth and women in small groups that will be financed to run and manage their projects. These finances help a great deal in seeing to it that the youth have their entrepreneurial projects in their respective groups running and therefore bettering their economic conditions. By putting youths into groups, this programme enables them to gather and pool resources and skills to better themselves and the society in general. This plan, which is still being absorbed in all parts of the country, is helping in transforming the country right from the villages to the cities. It has also aided in reducing the number of youths who move to urban areas in search of employment.

The government also re-launched the national Youth Service programme which is aimed at helping the youth discover and develop their potential. It is also a way of connecting with and encouraging young people to seek vocation considering they are the future of the nation. Since the re-launch, the service has successfully managed to recruit and train 10,740 young men and women in the year 2015 only.

Even with these developments, there is still a large percentage of youth who are unemployed. Worse still, there are a lot of young and talented innovators who seek investors and financiers in their projects. The government needs to invest more locally on the projects and innovations of Kenyan youth to avoid instances where these very talents and skills are exported in the form of foreign direct investments especially through venture capitalism. A large number of youth today have  incredible untapped talents and skills. Unfortunately, these talents and skills do not become a reality because often they end in exhibitions and showrooms because no local investor sees the need to improve on the talents and develop the young people.

There is immense power in the youth. Until the government taps this power to use it in the development and betterment of the nation then this power will go to waste. There is much more good in involving the youth in developmental activities and giving them power through employment and poverty reduction, than leaving them at the risk of being used by malicious politicians and also the temptation to engage in crime and/or joining militia groups. The current state of our country requires a very strong and empowered youth. The government needs to create opportunities for the youth outside the country, within the East African region and beyond. There need to be forums for the youth from this region to meet and engage actively on matters development. This is because the future of our nation, and the relationship between our country and other countries in the region depends on what is established now. A stronger regional youth group means a better and safer future where as a block we will work together in harmony to develop a better Kenya and a better East Africa.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Am Yegon Emmanuel, a student of communication public relations in Moi university. I an in second year….I cherish,value and long for a free society! I believe in the power of the youth in initiating change and fostering development,peace and harmony in the country and within the region. Currently the chair of Onward moi university chapter,a social action platform for the development of communities and spearheading social change and youth involvement. I am also a reporter and  show host at 103.9 m.u fm which is the university’s radio. I write for the 3rd Eye (Moi university press club) and have been their chief photographer since first year.

Catherine is a Mandela Fellow 2016, Women Deliver Young Leader and member of Youth RISE International working group. Catherine is a passionate young African feminist activist with over 7 years of experience in advancing gender equality, youth development and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of sustainable development through movement building, digital and social media, policy advocacy and capacity building for young women and adolescents girls. Catherine is currently Deputy Director at Dandelion Kenya, and sits on the SDGs Kenya Forum coordination committee. Catherine has engaged with various global and regional policy processes such as ICPD Beyond 2014 review, Beijing +20 and the post 2015 development agenda. She co-authored the article ‘Leave No One Behind; Will African Women be left behind in the post 2015 development agenda ,an article published on the East African Business Monthly in February 2015. Catherine launched the #SRHRDialogues, an online advocacy and awareness raising platform on SRHR and #YAFDialogues, an online platform anticipated to be a permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of an African feminist dialogue 2015 in Accra. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1