In looking at the many statistics that define Africa’s complexity, perhaps the most compelling one is the fact that Africa has the youngest population in the world with 200 million people aged between ages 15 and 24. Even more interesting is the projection that the population of young people within this age bracket are expected to double in the next two and a half decades.

While we are wowed by the statistics, perhaps the question we must answer is whether Africa’s youth population is a “ticking time bomb” or if the continents demography will contribute to sustainable economic growth and diversification. While there might be varied responses to these two fundamental questions, I am convinced that the increasing youth population present a window of opportunity for Africa to leverage this demographic dividend for development and leapfrog over advanced continents.

While we may have sound policies on how to engage the young people to spur development, we must be alive to the fact that without being intentional in equipping the young people with necessary skills, the desire of a prosperous continent is a pipe dream. Deliberate and intentional actions and programs geared towards equipping the young people with cross-cutting knowledge and skills are profoundly warranted.

I am glad that the Young Africa Leaders Initiative (YALI) founded by President Barack Obama is stamping its authority as a flagship program that spurs leadership growth in Africa. The recently concluded 3rd Youth Leadership Transformations Summit organized by YALI Kenya Alumni Chapter is a testament to the commitment by YALI to contribute to the development of Kenya and Africa at large by investing in young people.

The Youth Leadership Transformation Summit sought to equip participants from
across Kenya and Africa with the mindset, knowledge, and tools necessary for effective engagement in governance, law and policy-making processes at the national and county levels; and in successfully running and upscaling the various youth led initiatives and projects in the areas of public service, civic engagement and business and entrepreneurship.

The Summit brought together government officials from the executive and legislature at the national and county levels, private sector leadership and young people working to transform their communities for two days of structured engagements with participants joining the summit both in person and virtually (Hybrid Summit) with 100 participants selected from across Kenya’s 47 Counties for the in-person summit. The summit was held between 29th and 30th July 2021 at the Kenya School of Government.

My Presentation at the Summit

With all humility, I am glad to have been invited to present during the 3rd Youth Leadership Transformation Summit. Aligning my presentation to the summit theme ‘Strengthening Youth Engagement in Governance, Law and Policy Processes,’ I presented on Youth Participation in Devolved Governance in Kenya. During my short presentation, I underscored the opportunities for the youth in the devolved governance. Some of the opportunities I highlighted include:

  • Seeking elective positions that have been provided in the constitution at both the national and county level of government.
  • Engagement through the citizen fora established by residents of a city or county as proposed in the constitution and enacted in legislation, through organized groups such as the youth councils and youth organizations.
  • Seek participation in planning, budgeting, and implementation of development at both levels0 of government as required by the constitution and legislation around devolution.
  • Active participation by the youth in monitoring implementation of public funded development projects.
  • Youth and Women Enterprise Development Funds to initiate development projects. The youth should also apply for tenders to provide goods and services for public functions.
  • Joining political parties and seeking positions in these parties so that youth may have influence from within as opposed to being engaged by politicians during election time only.
  • Teaching the community on various issues of importance such as legislations, government policies and programs, and make people participate in the processes that shape the society.
  • Participate in the vetting of officials offering themselves for leadership positions in their localities and at the national level. This would ensure that only credible people of high integrity get elected to public offices, effectively denying corrupt and inefficient persons from taking up public offices.

While these opportunities exit, there are structural and circumstantial barriers that hinder youth participations in devolved governments. I briefly shared about these barriers as below.

  • Inadequate education and training that fail to prepare the youth adequately to participate in decision-making, hence denying them necessary analytical skills for critical thinking or problem-solving through participatory and active learning.
  • Lack of direct access to institutional systems and structures within government, severely impedes youth ability to meaningfully contribute during the formulation of public policies and programs.
  • Lack of direct access to institutional systems and structures within government, severely impedes youth ability to meaningfully contribute during the formulation of public policies and programs.
  • Perception among the youth that their voice would not be heard.
  • Lack of information on available avenues for participation in governance.
  • Governance issue to be tackled may seem too big for the youth such that they opt not to engage. Also, the issue being tackled may not be of interest to the youth.
  • Youth might not see the need to engage due to lack of engagement or complacency by their peers.

In finishing my presentation, I challenge my fellow young people to grab the opportunities at the community, county and national level, which were brought by the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. I was also honest in rallying the young people to “go for the opportunities” instead of “waiting the opportunities to come to them.” The days of manna from heaven ended with the Israelites. There is no more manna but hard work and aggressiveness.

Photo Session with delegates

REMEMBER “Young people must have their voices heard at all times. We cannot not be passive participants in the conversations about our future. We must get active and create the future the way we want it.”
― Edem Agbana

Published by Oduor Kevin

ODUOR KEVIN is a Public Health Specialist with considerable experience in the health care industry. He has worked in various organizations, leading projects and programs aimed at improving the health outcomes of people living with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and the general population. Oduor Kevin is currently the Chief Programs Officer at Stowelink Inc, a youth-led organization with a single most focus on addressing the burden of NCDs. Oduor’s experience in project management is attributed to his work at Population Services Kenya (PSK) where he served as a member of the National Coordinating Committee for Kitu Ni Kukachora project. Further, in 2019, Oduor Kevin was appointed as Kenyatta University Campus Director by Millenium Campus Network (MCN) to supervise and lead Millennium Fellows in their Social Impact projects. During this assignment, he successfully supervised the fellows and delivered them for graduation under the banner of Millennium Fellowship.

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