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February 23, 2019

Youth can drive and deliver Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda

President Uhuru Kenyatta has decided that he will not be a lame duck in his last term. In fact, he intends to exceed in ambition and impact what his government achieved in its first five years.

In his Big Four agenda, Uhuru wants to deliver food security, affordable housing and affordable healthcare and transform Kenya into a regional manufacturing powerhouse. For a lame duck administration, this agenda is ambitious.

However, while the details are hazy and the policy and financing details are scant, the Big Four are both important and achievable. Successful delivery in these four areas is critical, pivotal to launching Kenya’s economic and social transformation.

Imagine living in Kenya as a woman and never having to worry about your own death or that of your child at childbirth. Imagine living in Kenya and not having to worry about your child reaping the benefits of free education because she was malnourished and stunted due to lack of nutritious food. Imagine living in country where decent housing with access to water and sanitation is not the exclusive privilege of the wealthy.

Imagine industrial parks in every county that produce high quality products with three proud words ‘Made in Kenya’, launching a solid, sustainable foundation for the rise of a true middle class. By middle class I am referring to men and women who earn a decent wage, on par with the so-called industrial countries of the west. Not the miserable, on the brink of poverty African Development Bank middle class who spend less than $20 a day (Sh1,900 )

For many, the Big Four is an opportunity to close deals and make outrageous profits. For example, it has been reported that 35 private firms are set to build one million houses by 2023 at a cost of Sh2.6 trillion, equivalent to Kenya’s annual budget. The unit price per house under a scheme that will be buttressed by a public mortgage refinancing company will be Sh2.6 million.

The trillions to be made by Kenya’s legendary entrepreneurs are the least juicy part of the Big Four agenda. Think about delivery of the Big Four as a historic opportunity to harness the ingenuity of our youth and leverage our tertiary institutions as well as technology and innovation hubs to invent and produce substitutes for energy-intensive industrial products like cement and sand, which is damaging surface water systems.

We can attain food security not by throwing tonnes of inorganic fertilisers in our farms or by leasing land to big foreign agro-industrial investors. We can put millions of smallholder farmers to work and use smart technology to optimise inputs and farm operations and manage transition from small farms in an orderly fashion.

New businesses led by young entrepreneurs could revolutionise healthcare. Think about how youth could help pioneer innovations in patient records and delivery of care through coordination of health teams in multiple places using technology. We can lead the world in redesigning and delivering quality health at a lower cost.

Yes, youth can!

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