POSTERITY

BBI promise for youth offers platform for take-off

About 75 per cent of the country’s population is younger than 35 years

In Summary

• To sustain the pride of any nation, the youth must be empowered to step in, at the right moment, to move on with the task of nation building.

•  The BBI report demonstrates a strong appreciation of young people and their issues.

President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks to the youth at the Bomas of Kenya during the Kenya Ni Mimi launch.
YOUNG KENYA: President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks to the youth at the Bomas of Kenya during the Kenya Ni Mimi launch.
Image: PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta once remarked that the youth must once again claim their space, not as trend followers, but as trendsetters. And they must use this moment to organise themselves for the renewal of our economy.

About 75 per cent of the country’s population is below the age of 35 years. The Building Bridges Initiative, being about a better present and Kenya’s best possible future, was required to significantly address the issues faced by this 75 per cent of Kenyans. BBI is about them, their destiny and their right to the best possible Kenya.

Just like the youth of the 1960s, when Kenya gained her independence, the young people of today are the custodians of the future and prosperity of the nation. To sustain the pride of any nation, the youth must be empowered to step in, at the right moment, to move on with the task of nation building.

This happened in the 60s when youth were a core part of the Independence struggles and played an important role in negotiating our Independence.

At the Lancaster Conferences, some of the key negotiators were in their 30s including Tom Mboya (30), Daniel Moi (36), Bernard Mate (38) and Masinde Muliro (38). The young Legco members would later become our first generation of post-Independence political leaders.

When we gained Independence, young people became part and parcel of the administrations that followed. Kenneth Matiba was a Permanent Secretary (Ministry of Education) at the age of 34 in 1966; Robert Ouko was Ministry of Works PS at the age of 34, while Josephat Karanja was Kenya’s High Commissioner to London at the age of 34.

Simeon Nyachae was at the same age a Provincial Commissioner, while Titus Mbathi was Ministry of Economic Planning and Development PS aged 38.

The BBI report proposes the creation of a constitutional Youth Commission to replace the National Youth Council. It significantly elevates the issues facing the youth, as their involvement would have the weight of constitutional protection and independence behind them.

The commission would, among others, promote implementation of youth rights provided in Article 55 so they fully participate in the economic, political, social and all other spheres of life.

The BBI report demonstrates a strong appreciation of young people and their issues and more importantly, articulates the urgency with which these matters should be considered and implemented. This sends a strong signal that the BBI process and young people’s priorities are aligned. Young people have been heard.

The youth submitted their views and expectations to the BBI committee and through the report, there are many gains that they stand to benefit from, including several proposed legislative amendments, policy and administrative actions.

For example, the Prompt Payment Bill 2020 provides a legal framework for the prompt payment of invoices for goods and services procured by public entities and mechanisms for settling disputes over invoices.

This is an area the youth have struggled in with government agencies, which are holding billions of shillings owed to the youth in pending bills.

The Micro and Small Enterprises (Amendment) Bill, 2020 will give youth-owned enterprises a seven-year tax break. It calls for establishment of business incubation centres across the country to register youth enterprises and provide business advisory services.

Proposed amendments to the Higher Education Loans Board Act proposes to would give students who benefited from Helb loans a repayment grace period of four years after they complete studies.

The amendment further proposes to exempt students without a source of income, upon application to Helb, from paying interest on the loans until they  start earning.

On policy and administrative interventions, BBI proposes employment conferences with senior representation from state actors be held countrywide. They will determine the steps in regulation and economic management needed to increase jobs for young Kenyans.

The conferences will document and keep a record of the number and names of  jobless youth, their skill sets, and other details.

BBI also calls for promotion of cottage industries, which include manufacturing and labour-intensive industries/sectors (agriculture, livestock and fishing).

Additional policy and administrative measures proposed are the gradual adoption of technologies that increase productivity, capacity building, creation or improvement of infrastructure, increased funding, tax incentives and facilitating marketing of products.

Others are full implementation of Agpo (Access to Government Procurement Opportunities) whereby at least 30 per cent of procurement opportunities in government will be allocated to youth, women and persons with disability

BBI also calls for creation of county employment bureaus to harness the number of young people seeking employment.

To help young people form businesses, advice desks manned by business development experts will be introduced in every Huduma Centre.

BBI also proposes formation of a government/private-sector non-profit foundation chaired by the president. It is to provide mentorship, training and support tools to aspiring young business owners.

Through it the government will provide work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy training, using classroom volunteers in schools, starting from the age of 12 until graduation.

Finally, on representation, BBI proposes amendment of Constitution Articles 90 and 177 to provide that party lists for nomination of MPs and senators must include women, youth, PWDs, ethnic and other minorities and marginalised communities.

The report asserts that Kenyan policy should be guided by respect and embrace our ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious, gender and generational diversity.

Makodingo is a devolution and governance expert