Youth policy needs overhaul to effectively address problems facing young people

The Youth Enterprise Development Fund was the first effort to finance entrepreneurship. FILE PHOTO |

What you need to know:

  • The government’s intention to empower the youth has been good.
  • Unfortunately, none of these efforts appreciates the history of the youth in this country.

Although the government should be applauded for the many initiatives it has embarked on to improve the condition of the country’s young population, reviewing the existing National Youth Policy will yield the desired results.

Developed in 2007 as part of the National Rainbow Coalition’s transformative agenda, the policy that was due for review after five years is in complete disharmony with the Jubilee administration’s youth agenda.

There are no clear guidelines on how to coordinate the many government interventions on the youth agenda, significantly compromising the outcome since they do not complement one another.

Most of these efforts are by the central government, whereas at devolved level — where county governments appear overwhelmed by almost everything — there are few activities to address the plight of young people.

The review of the policy must be guided by an appreciation that there is a lot that needs to be done to exploit the existing opportunities and tackle the main challenges. Undoubtedly, we need a focused policy that can create a solid foundation to genuinely address the needs, aspirations, and concerns of the youth.

The government’s intention to empower the youth has been good. Unfortunately, none of these efforts appreciates the history of the youth in this country. Coming from a marginalised background, an element of affirmative action is needed if the country is to reverse the existing situation.


Take, for instance, the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, which was created eight years ago. It was the first effort to finance entrepreneurship in the country since independence.

The fund was created to support entrepreneurs who were constrained by lack of capital. Although it continues to fund businesses, it is yet to stand out as a significant source of capital for the youth. Its loans are structured along the lines of those from commercial banks, except for the low interest rate, and it has benefited only those with running business or with collateral to secure loans.

The recent rule requiring 30 per cent of all government procurement to go to the youth and women has not been received with the expected enthusiasm due to capital challenges. Claims are now rife that some unscrupulous businessmen are fronting companies registered by youth to do business with the government, only for the true owners to end up pocketing the funds.
With a comprehensive youth policy in place, it would be easy to consider all the factors needed for a business venture to succeed, including creation of mechanisms where the youth can be supported by the government, the main consumer of goods and services, to secure financing from the market.
The government has been casual on the manner in which it has made populist policy pronouncement without considering how they will be actualised. That is why the country has ended up with many youth initiatives that have failed to yield tangible results.
The revised youth policy should not only aim at empowering young people economically, but should also engage them in public life. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan once said: “Any society that does not succeed in tapping into the energy and creativity of its youth will be left behind.”
Indeed, young people have an important role in the country’s development, especially in the realisation of Vision 2030, which seeks to turn Kenya into a middle-income economy. They are doing competently in the private sector.

In addition to having an effective youth policy, the central and the county governments must create the required infrastructure to facilitate young people’s participation in policy-making processes. It is the responsibility of the government to do this in line with the Constitution. When the government involves the youth in policy-making, it is also easier to create ownership for the programmes that are developed.

Equally important is the need to acknowledge that the challenges faced by the youth cannot be solved by government alone. There is a need for collaboration and partnership between the public and the private sector.

Mr Obonyo is a Global Young Diplomat, and the external adviser on the UN Habitat’s Youth Advisory Board. [email protected]


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