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My Take

Empowered youth critical to stable future

Mohamednur Duba

The youth are the backbone of a society upon which the future of a nation lies. They are the present and future leaders of the nation and the heirs of what the founders of the nation have left behind. If adequately empowered, it is safe to conclude the youth can transform the world.

Over half of the world’s population is under age 30. In developing countries 65 per cent  of the population is below age 35, out of which 20 per cent  are not employed or trained. This spells doom for the future if urgent intervention is not put in place.

It goes without saying that educated, healthy and civically engaged youth drive economic growth, democracy and prosperity. The youth should, therefore, be roped in to support development efforts to ensure sustainable investments to end vicious cycles of poverty, build strong, democratic societies, improve health and nutrition outcomes and strengthen economies.

However, failure to involve the youth in the running of the country is perhaps the source of misfortunes facing developing countries, including  violence, instability, rise of gangs and braindrain.

Generally, Kenya has been at the forefront in pushing for youth empowerment compared, but more needs to be done. The Kenya Youth Empowerment Project (KYEP) is one such project the government implemented successfully and touched lives of over 13,000 youths across the country.

The five-year World Bank-funded pilot project that ended in February 2016 was implemented by the government and Kenya Private Sector Alliance aimed at supporting efforts to improve youth employability through provision of training and internship.

Specifically, the project aimed at ensuring that at least 50 per cent of youth completing the internship programme secured employment.

According to the evaluation report of the project, it has yielded tremendous results and exceeded its set objectives, with an average of 77 per cent beneficiaries engaging in gainful employment through entrepreneurship. Youth who participated in the programme had better employment outcomes compared to those who did not participate.

The results from the project informed the launch of the Kenya Youth Employment Opportunities Project (KYEOP), another World Bank-funded five-year project which aims at improving youth employment through skills training and entrepreneurship support. However, this is not enough as most young people are  still languishing in poverty and need more support. 

The government should provide equal playing field to graduates who seek employment both in government and private sector. Competence should be given more preference to connections and papers  when seeking employment. Only then will deserving graduates get a chance to take part in nation building.

The Youth Enterprise Development Fund established in 2007 which gives loans to youth at affordable rates should have its budgetary allocation increased. This will give the youth a chance to try their hand in entrepreneurship.

Other interventions could include guidance and counselling especially against the backdrop of an upsurge in mental illness cases, that have seen hundreds of youth  commit suicides and homicide.

According to USAid, 43 per cent of homicides globally occur among the youth and 83 per cent  of this involve male victims. Youth violence increases the cost of health, welfare and criminal justice services, reduces productivity and by extension economic growth.

With an entire ministry in charge of youth affairs and a number of projects geared towards youth empowerment, we are on course to improving youth welfare.  But going forward, initiatives targeting the youth should be more deliberate. The writer is a communications practitioner

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