It is very encouraging to see young people throw their hats in the political arena and put themselves out there for elective posts in the upcoming elections. It is particularly uplifting to see more young women taking the plunge into the murky world of politics, in a country where politics is a very tough environment for women.
These ‘young turks’ are full of promise. They might not have the pedigree and war chests like their older, more experienced opponents, but they have the benefit of boundless energy and vigour. They also have what many ageing politicians don’t have – the gift of time.
To have so many young people interested in the country’s political process; whether as potential candidates or as voters, must not be taken lightly.
For a long time in this country, politics was the preserve of the high and mighty, the moneyed and blue-eyed; those with the capital to fund expensive campaigns. Today, we have young candidates crowdfunding for campaigns, banking on the goodwill of fellow Kenyans to get into office.
These young candidates no longer have to purchase expensive TV advertisements and billboards to introduce themselves to their constituents.
They have the benefit of social media platforms that allow them to speak to their people directly and in a more personable, targeted manner. They do not need to be on the front pages of newspapers and in the headlines, as long as they understand how to leverage the capabilities of the Internet.
It is much easier to communicate to your electorate in this social media age. We have seen this work incredibly well in the developed countries like the United States, where young politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, the US Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, relied on crowd funding and door-to-door campaigns and toppled bigwigs.
It is one thing to encourage young people to get involved in changing this country, but this encouragement must be accompanied by deliberate effort to provide these young candidates the requisite mentorship, guidance and financial support they need to get into office.
Our support for young candidates must move beyond lip service and glowing commendations. We must put in the work to make sure these young folks get into Parliament and county governments to bring the change we want to see.
Lastly, young candidates must really live up to their promise this time. I know we don’t ask this of the older politicians, but we ask this of you because we believe that you are fresh, you don’t have too many hang-ups and you represent the hope that this country needs.
Too many times this country has been disappointed by younger political candidates, some of who are today the experienced candidates that you want to replace.
We not only believe in you for your new ideas and youthful energy, but also because we know what you can achieve if you stay the course and remain faithful to the promise of change.
The writer is the Director, Innovation Centre, at Aga Khan University; [email protected]