Let’s pass the baton to the young people

Kenya Population and Housing Census

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ enumerators inside a bus at Eldoret bus park in Uasin Gishu County on August 24, 2019 during the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census exercise.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Collapse of leadership and structures has wrecked chances of decent jobs and successful entrepreneurship.
  • There is need to go beyond youth tokenism and pass the baton.

The 2019 census awoke us to new statistics, one of them being that there are 47,564,296 million people in Kenya, with a majority of them being women at 24 million while men are 23.6 million.

An interesting statistic is that 75 per cent of the total 47.5 million is aged 35 years and below. Knowing the size, sex, location and age of the population is the first step in ensuring governments develop policies that prioritise investment in equal and collective growth.

A country populated by a young majority requires that its policies, governance and operating strategies, priorities and vision are centred on this demographic.

UNFPA states that countries with the greatest demographic opportunity for development are those entering a period where the working-age population has good health, quality education and decent employment. 

These key areas were ravaged by Covid-19 in 2020, which means the government must have a clear focus on how to stabilise young people for the country to grow. 

An untapped demographic dividend is a powerful resource that can completely alter how a country runs, yet there is persistent marginalisation and wilful sidelining of the youth, which is ruinous to future progress.

Female-led households

Collapse of leadership and structures has wrecked chances of decent jobs and successful entrepreneurship, thus running down the potential of the youth. 

Kenya has a predominantly female population and, therefore, the rise in unemployment cases and income loss over the past one year has had a disproportionate effect on female-led households. 

Furthermore, worsening gender violence, compounded care work and increased malnutrition all have significant effects on how the female population engages this year going forward.

Tapping into the opportunities presented by the existing demographic dividend not only enables the leadership of the country to adequately plan, but it also creates space for active inclusivity. 

Foremost, bridging the disconnect in thought, experiences and realities between those currently leading and those being led should be a primary agenda.

Secondly, there is need to go beyond youth tokenism and pass the baton, and for those who’ve been holding space to spend their privilege towards actualising demographic inclusivity.

We have so many brilliant and smart young people who go unnoticed because those already holding space aren’t bothered about their inclusion.

Lastly, the future of politics and governance is in the hands of the youth. The ins and outs can be debated, but Kenya’s next elected leadership will exclusively be in the hands of young people.

We should, therefore, stop seeing the recycling of old unimaginative and disconnected leaders who aren’t concerned about the building inclusion and representative country.

The writer is a policy analyst; okoreschea@gmail.com

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