In the early part of his second term, President Uhuru Kenyatta outlined four pillars of development that would form the basis of his government and its policies: food security, affordable housing, universal healthcare and manufacturing.
While there is much to do, the groundwork for the pillars has been laid and, the latest Coronavirus pandemic notwithstanding, there are certainly green buds of progress and development.
While the Big Four Agenda received a lot of attention, towards the end of last year President Kenyatta announced something I believe needs to attract the same level of support and interest.
In November, Uhuru’s Cabinet rolled out the Kenya Youth Development Policy (KYDP) 2019 that focuses on key issues affecting our youth.
This new policy seeks to co-ordinate youth programmes to address unemployment, radicalisation, youth exclusion, cyber-crime and human trafficking, among other challenges facing the youth.
As the Big Four, these ‘Big Five’ are a result of research, discussions with stakeholders and understanding key issues affecting our people that have served as insurmountable barriers for some to fulfil their potential.
Breaking the cycle of these Big Five is essential because they are the key to Kenya’s future. If our youth are restricted and unable to progress, neither can our nation.
Youth has always been a central theme in much of what Uhuru does, and he understands that the repercussions are felt by all Kenyans.
Even before he became President, while Minister of Finance, he launched the Fund for Inclusion in the Informal Sector, which partnered with banks to make lines of credit more accessible. Uhuru acknowledged that most micro and small businesses were owned by the youth and the greatest barrier to their success was access to credit.
At the time, Uhuru wrote: “The fund, therefore, aims to meet the twin objectives of addressing youth unemployment and encouraging the growth of SMEs as key drivers to economic growth and development.”
Many of the businesses that had access to the fund are still with us today, thriving and providing employment and contributing towards our economy.
This type of long-term vision is one that has assisted so many Kenyan youths realise their potential and formed the bedrock of our hi-tech hub ‘Silicon Savannah’, which so much of our macro-economic success in recent years has revolved around.
Hi-tech and innovation are such important drivers of any economy because they don’t take many resources and can survive human and natural disasters, and so it will be after the Coronavirus has hopefully left us.
That is why Uhuru made this point the special focus of his remarks at the virtual meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union.
“I also wish to reiterate that the biggest resource at our disposal is our own people and especially the youth,” he told his counterparts from around the continent.
“Indeed, we need to harness the digital revolution and innovation witnessed during this pandemic as a catalyst for post-COVID-19 economic revival, and which is key in the creation of jobs for our youth.”
We need to lower unemployment, reduce radicalisation and its effects, fight youth exclusion at all levels, end cyber-crime, and, of course, end human trafficking. Once these have been achieved, we can truly and successfully tap into our greatest resource because they will be free to invent, innovate and develop.
It may seem obvious to some, but it is a concept that needs developing. It needs focus and not the type of platitudes we have heard far too often.
The Big Five on youth is a work plan of action. It is a programme that will help us out of the COVID-19 slump that will befall all nations in the coming months and years.
Uhuru is banking on youth in Kenya, and around Africa. We should, too.