“Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world.” Vladimir Lenin said it, meant it and did it.
Whether we agree with his ideological stand or not, what is important is that he was able to harness the raw power of the youth to achieve his ends.
The socialist revolutionary clearly knew how powerful the youth are in an active social change. The question now is, how do we want to change our society, and how do we engage and partner with the youth to do so virtuously?
Kenya is a youthful nation, and so too is Africa, boasting a 77 percent youthful population. On the surface, this may seem like a God-sent opportunity, with the continent brimming with an abundant workforce and talent. On the other hand, it may turn out to be a kind of “Dutch Disease,” of population, with the negative consequences that arise from an abundance and reliance on only one key national resource.
A demographic dividend, not disaster must be realized. It is prudent to take the impact of population change with the seriousness it deserves, for the economic, social and democratic development of our nations.
The post-2015 agenda document known as the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDG’), to which Kenya is a signatory, gives a clear framework from which to pursue the country’s development agenda and provide a roadmap which youth empowerment and partnership are key.
As the driving force for sustainable economic growth the world over, success in implementing the SDGs requires youth engagement and partnership in all sectors of life. The document states that “children, young women, and men are critical agents of change.”
Globally, the United Nations cites nine out of ten youth live in developing nations and are disproportionately affected by unemployment, poverty, exclusion, violence, and conflict. It is incumbent upon nations like ours to engage all stakeholders in shifting the tide.
As a nation, we know all too well the grim reality of what a disenfranchised, marginalized and disenchanted youth can do to a society. Holistic engagement with the youth is, therefore, a national priority to avoid disintegration. It is also imperative to engage and partner with the youth to meet our development goals.
Entrepreneurship and innovation are an integral part of sustained wealth creation for the individual and society at large, whether from the formal or informal sectors. The robust dynamism that Kenya has is within plain sight.
Just last January, Nairobi was ranked 6th among the world’s 20 most dynamic cities by the World Economic Forum, the only African city in the top 20. This is a clear testament to the human capital resources we have which can change society for the better. Young women and men are not passive beneficiaries and bystanders, but equal and effective partners at home, on the continent and the world over.
A new era has begun in which organizations come together towards birthing a new cadre of youthful entrepreneurs within the informal sector to ease the country’s unemployment crisis. As it stands, Kenya has over one million young people entering into the labor market annually without any skills, some having either dropped out of school or completed school and not enrolled in any college.
As the private sector, there is an onus as a key stakeholder in Kenya to act on this.
At KCB, we have made a decision to follow through on supporting youth gain essential entrepreneurship skills. Through “2jiajiri,” a youth entrepreneurship program we have graduated over 23,000 young men and women. The beneficiaries will now officially progress for the second phase of the training that includes business incubation through internship and apprenticeship opportunities. “2jiajiri,” will benefit at least 400,000 over the next 4 years, moreover creating 2.5 million direct and indirect jobs.
We have a clear example of how East Asia as a sub-continent made the most of its demographic dividend window to maximize holistic growth. Critical policy areas that made the difference was an inclusive investment in youth development, skills development, and infrastructure. A synergy of policy emphasis on skill-intensive jobs and labor-intensive jobs made for a robust economic machine. The Asian cubs were able to roar, why not our “Simbas!”
Effective investment from government, private sector, and non-governmental organizations in integrated development will lead to greater economic growth, peace, and stability, ultimately lowering the dependency ratio in our societies.
Through youth partnerships, a win-win scenario for all stakeholders can be attained. The youth are the key drivers for future democracy, prosperity, and security of our nations. We can actualize it and reap the youth dividend.