It’s an old folks’ world, no place for youth


Youths from various Kenyan universities addressing the media at African Nazarene University, on September 20, 2019.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The greatest challenge our country faces right now is unemployment.

When Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan herdsboy (in his own words), took the reins of power in the United States, the world was shocked.

Not only had Obama become the first black president of the remaining superpower, but he was relatively young, at 48. Years later, bar last-minute disappointment, the key to the White House is about to be handed over to Joe Biden, 78.

This scene in America is replicated all over the world, including in Kenya. The old will simply not realise that they have grown too old for work and groom the next generation of leaders.

The Nobel Prize committee that chooses the winners of its respected awards has not been left behind with, for example, all the recipients of the Nobel prize for literature over the past 10 years having been sexagenarians, septuagenarians and octogenarian, save for 2018, when Olga Tojalakutz, of Poland, won the prize at 56. This and last year’s winners are Loise Gluck and Peter Hanke, both 77.

One is left wondering if there are no youthful writers who win the coveted prize. No wonder, our very own Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o, 82, who wrote his first book, Weep Not, Child, in 1964, made the 2016 shortlist at 78.

He would be beaten to the prize by Bob Dylan, then 75. Seems like it’s an old boys’ and girls’ club, this. In Nairobi, a similar pot is cooking.

The nominees for ambassadorial appointments, who are being vetted by Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, are all over 60 — the mandatory retirement age for workers in this country. I was shocked to learn that one is over 70.

A member of the vetting committee could not help but quip loudly that she wondered what a woman the age of her retired mother was doing looking for employment.

Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli, the indefatigable fighter for workers’ rights, won’t even talk now.

My take is, these are people who have made their contribution to nation-building and deserve to rest. However, the word retirement is anathema to them.

Ngure Kamau, Nyandarua

* * *

The greatest challenge our country faces right now is unemployment. The solution to this crisis is two-prolonged. One is creating ventures where youth can be engaged constructively.

First, a very high percentage of start-ups wind up in the first year of inception. Therefore, provision of an enabling environment, in addition to the tax holiday captured in the BBI report for new youth enterprises, is necessary.

The second avenue to job creation is zealously protecting and assisting public and private ventures to remain afloat and expand. The collapse of erstwhile industry giants contributed to the surging unemployment.

Muriithi King’au, Laikipia


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