The moment to reflect on exactly what and where to invest for highest impact on Kenya’s development is now. the role of education in the process of nurturing our young. Debates surrounding education are healthy but while teaching is best left to teachers, there is a compelling need to define and promote holistic strategies for positive development of Kenyans from cradle.
There is intense and growing interest at national, county, and constituency levels in identifying support and opportunities that result in better developmental outcomes for youth. Government agencies, community leaders and civil society activists are focusing on empowering the youth. Kenya’s Vision 2030 identifies young people as key resources whose behaviour and decisions will have a direct bearing to the attainment of the status of industrialized country with high quality of life.
Analysis by the National Council for Population and Development, a Semi-Autonomous Government in the Ministry of Devolution and Planning show the Government has demonstrated good will to unlock youth opportunities for growth by providing practical tools to work at the community level. Since 2007 the government of Kenya has taken bold steps to address youth disempowerment. These include setting up revolving funds to support youth enterprises, and establishing Youth Empowerment Centers at the constituency. The latter are fashioned as “one-stop-shop” to address the thematic areas identified in the National Youth Policy. These are Youth and Health, Youth Enterprise, Youth Training, Youth in Difficult Circumstances, Youth and Peace Building, Youth and Gender, Youth and ICT. These initiatives hold great hopes for Kenya’s youth.
Youth are key for the perpetuation of society in the unending process of procreation innate in every human being. This makes the role of families and the community to prepare youth; to transition them to take personal and community responsibility a crucial one. Human experience shows that it is possible to work in partnership with individuals, organizations, government, and community leadership to create and advance a vision of youth development that specifies both strategies and the results to be expected.
Investing in youth is important in demographic terms. Kenya is experiencing a “youth bulge’. A country is said to experience a youth bulge if young people constitute more than twenty percent in the population. In Kenya 45 percent of the population is below 15 years of age. Youth bulge situation presents both an opportunity and a challenge. As an opportunity a large youthful population would provide much needed labour for a growing economy; but it becomes a challenge when youth lack skills or are unhealthy hindering their participation. In order to harness youth energy therefore it is essential to give them skills to cope in the economy or so the argument goes.
Another reason to invest is to include in youth in population management. Youth contributes to an in-built population growth momentum, especially due to increase in the number of young men and women entering reproductive age. Unless these young people are prepared in order to play their rightful role in the country’s development, the large and growing youthful population will continue to contribute to rapidly increasing working-age population which tends to worsen unemployment prolonging dependency that diminishes self-esteem which could fuel frustrations that may lead to social unrest.
Population experts caution that policy initiatives and resources need targeting to align future population growth with economic growth as a strategy to improve quality of life. One such strategy is youth participation or the processes of involving youth in the decisions that affect their lives. This is crucial for the success of initiatives fronted by families, government or civil society. In Kenya youth participation includes a wide range of activities – from volunteering expertise and labour in community projects to forming investment groups and committees and holding lobbying meetings to engage National and County Level Government authorities.
As the country moves forward, the country needs to consider high impact programmes that will inspire change and desire of a majority of youth for self development. In a nutshell youth must meet the government and other players mid-stream in order for Kenya to reap the benefits of a healthy, dynamic and forward-looking youth.