In Kenyan his­tory, there is no bet­ter time to be a youth than now. The gov­ern­ment has pro­vided nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties to em­power youth and those re­spon­si­ble must take this se­ri­ously

The Star (Kenya) - - Voices - MACHEL WAIKENDA Po­lit­i­cal and com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant @MachelWaik­enda

Last week, I had the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend the State House Youth Sum­mit hosted by Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta. It was not only eye-open­ing but it also un­der­scored the role of young peo­ple in the de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try. The Sum­mit took stock of the ini­tia­tives the gov­ern­ment has put in place so far to en­sure young peo­ple are not only kept oc­cu­pied, but also earn a de­cent liv­ing.

Of great im­por­tance was the eval­u­a­tion of the 30 per cent ten­der di­rec­tive for youth, women and peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­ity un­der the Ac­cess to Gov­ern­ment Pro­cure­ment Op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­gramme.

Though a good num­ber of youth have taken ad­van­tage of this pro­gramme, the Sum­mit iden­ti­fied a num­ber of chal­lenges the ini­tia­tive still faces.

Key among these was some gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions are yet to give ten­ders to young peo­ple as di­rected by the Pres­i­dent. There are oth­ers that are re­ported to take long be­fore mak­ing pay­ments.

As Pres­i­dent Uhuru said, any of­fi­cer who fails to give these ten­ders, or fails to pay those awarded does not de­serve to be in of­fice. His di­rec­tive that pay­ments should be made im­me­di­ately is more than wel­come. My take is all AIE hold­ers must be given 60 days to com­plete all youth ten­ders’ pay­ments.There is need for the gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cracy to be more re­spon­sive in pay­ing valid in­voices with­out de­lay.

I would also pro­pose an an­nual “Youth Em­pow­er­ment In­dex” for all min­istries and county gov­ern­ments which will eval­u­ate how ef­fec­tively they have per­formed in pay­ing the youth en­ter­prises promptly.

In Kenyan his­tory, there has not been a bet­ter time to be a youth than now. The gov­ern­ment has pro­vided nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties to em­power them and all those re­spon­si­ble must take this very se­ri­ously.

This is be­cause, as I have opined on this col­umn be­fore, an idle and des­per­ate youth­ful population is the great­est dan­ger to any coun­try. Young peo­ple are vul­ner­a­ble to crime and other il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties such as po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence.

As part of the process to im­prove is­sues re­lated to young peo­ple, Pub­lic Ser­vice, Youth and Gen­der Af­fairs CS Si­cily Kar­iuki has said the gov­ern­ment is in the process of re­view­ing the Na­tional Youth Pol­icy, which is some­what out of date.

This process must in­volve get­ting views from the young peo­ple to en­sure we have the youth driv­ing their agenda. The re­vised pol­icy must fo­cus on em­ploy­ment as an op­por­tu­nity to turn the youth into eco­nomic contributors in the coun­try. It must also en­sure fewer youths are in­volved in crime, drug and al­co­hol abuse for a pro­duc­tive gen­er­a­tion.

But it is not all gloom when it comes to youth em­pow­er­ment as we learnt dur­ing the Sum­mit which em­pha­sised a proac­tive ap­proach from all stake­hold­ers.

We learnt that the Youth En­ter­prise De­vel­op­ment Fund has al­ready dis­bursed Sh11.7 bil­lion and more than 25,000 youths have been ab­sorbed into the SGR project.

More that Sh40 bil­lion worth of ten­ders has also been ac­cessed by youth, women and per­sons with dis­abil­ity un­der the Agpo pro­gramme. Some 31,000 ten­ders worth Sh40 bil­lion have been awarded un­der the Agpo pro­gramme and the Uwezo Fund has dis­bursed Sh1.8 bil­lion to 20,000 youth groups.

We also learnt that the new Kenya Youth Em­ploy­ment and Op­por­tu­ni­ties Project put to­gether by the gov­ern­ment will train 280,000 young peo­ple.

The Sum­mit was told that over 165,000 youths were al­ready em­pow­ered through part­ner­ships with de­vel­op­ment part­ners and pri­vate sec­tors.We know that the youth population which is yet to ben­e­fit from this em­pow­er­ment pro­gramme is still large. We there­fore need to pick up the chal­lenge thrown to young peo­ple by var­i­ous pan­elists at the sum­mit. They must be­come proac­tive by re­al­is­ing that op­por­tu­ni­ties won’t just fall in their laps. They have to make the ini­tia­tive of get­ting to know where these op­por­tu­ni­ties lie and take ad­van­tage of them.


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