Invest in youth to secure Kenya's future

They have fresh ideas but need support from government.

In Summary

• The fate of Kenya depends on its economic development.

• Will our youth inherit a robust economy, or will they not get to enjoy the freedoms that accompany economic prosperity?

“All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth,” Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote in Politics.

The fate of Kenya depends on its economic development - will our youth inherit a robust economy, or will they not get to enjoy the freedoms that accompany economic prosperity?

At its core, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s agenda is about supporting youth education and encouraging them to do something with it. The March 9, 2018, handshake with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga symbolised the importance of unity.

Adults must serve as an example to the next generation, that no matter what, we are a unified nation. We can only rely on one another. The youth must learn from the handshake, and the positive working relationship between Uhuru and Raila, that the advancement of society can only occur when factions embrace their differences.

The entire Big Four Agenda is in essence dedicated to the youth as well, as it is designed to hand them a wealthy Kenya—rich in money and in contentment. High-quality youth education is the key to implementing each aspect of it.

We have seen efforts on many fronts to encourage the advancement of knowledge and innovation amongst our youth. Next year, the government will introduce four foreign languages—Arabic, Chinese, French and German—to the primary school curriculum.

This will not be cheap, and will involve the hiring of more than 23,000 foreign language teachers. But there is no doubt the investment is worthwhile, because it will produce a globally competitive workforce.

It will make Kenyans more hireable in international positions, and show the world that we are a globalised, highly educated and versatile people.

All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth 
Greek philosopher Aristotle in his work 'Politics'

In addition, studies show that children who learn to speak several foreign languages develop greater cognitive abilities.

The ability to pick up quickly on foreign languages wires a person’s brain to easily acquire other new skills, which is key in today’s technologically shifting world. Lifelong learning is becoming increasingly essential to keep up with modern employment, whose nature is rapidly changing.


Another great avenue to invest in youth education is youth-led waste management initiatives. Urban areas face the challenge of how to manage uncollected solid waste, especially plastic bottles.

Rather than putting a band-aid over the sore, Uhuru’s administration should attempt to tackle the root problem of excessive waste, and explore ideas for recycling.

Fresh ideas can be found in younger generations. But they need direct support from the government through financial backing and programmes that create a safe and productive space for young people to brainstorm and take action.

One great example of this can be found in Dandora—one of the most pollution-affected areas in Kenya. The Kenyan Association of Manufacturers and Dandora HipHop City have collaborated to organise children in Dandora who don’t attend school. The children learn about recycling and the circular economy at waste collection points all over the Dandora at stations called Taka Banks.

The Changing Faces competition this year saw entries from 136 groups of children all over Kenya that took a stab at innovative waste management solutions. Programmes and competitions like these are a great way to encourage active participation amongst the youth in national and international affairs. It pushes them to think outside the box, and take their future into their own hands.

We have already begun to see great achievements of young Kenyan inventors. Roy Allela, 25, developed a smart hand glove that converts sign language into audio speech, which improves communication with the deaf and significantly alleviates their daily challenges.

Kelvin Gacheru, a recent graduate of the University of Nairobi, has developed Mobi-Water. Using solar-power, the system monitors water supply in homes, commercial buildings and utilities to alleviate water crisis.

To continue on this trajectory, it is crucial that Uhuru continues to support youth creativity, invest in their education, and ensure that the tech and government spheres are equipped to facilitate innovation. If he carries on along the present path, the sky really is the limit.

The author is an Adviser to Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa