Kenya’s youth should vote for the presidential aspirant who listens to them

Although the two main presidential aspirants have placed a focus on empowering youth and children in their election campaigns, it appears to be a curious fact that NASA’s Raila Odinga is almost never seen with either of them.

We have all seen many images and videos of President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose face lights up around children, with hordes of youths taking selfies and even doing the “dab” dance.

Raila on the other hand appears to have almost no public interaction with youths or children. While his age may be one reason, it is no explanation.

With almost four million out of a total of over 19 million registered voters in the 18-25 age bracket, it would behove those who aspire to national office to at least reach out and meet with this demographic so as to understand their needs, and relate to them on a personal level.

Perhaps this is why Raila can make the outrageous suggestion that he will scrap the laptops and tablets programme, a Jubilee pet project. He is obviously not against the concept, he just seems to have a problem with the magnitude and success of the Digischool (the brand name for the Digital Literacy programme).

The NASA manifesto also seems to lack an understanding of what youths need, aside from the predictable and vague promises to create more jobs. They say the devil is in the details and the NASA manifesto is noticeably quiet on how and where these jobs would be created, leading to suspicions of sloganeering with no depth or forethought.

On the other hand, the Jubilee manifesto has a whole section specifically devoted to “empowering youth”. Uhuru’s party explains how it almost tripled the funds disbursed to young people through the Youth Enterprise Development Fund. This support has enabled young people to participate in economic development, and offered opportunities for formal and self-employment.

Furthermore, the current government increased the number of young people recruited through the National Youth Service from 4,000 in 2013 to 37,005 in 2016. It has also trained over 12,000 youths in SMEs entrepreneurship and management in the past four years compared to none in 2012-13.

Their manifesto for the next five years also shows an understanding of what the youth want, particularly the commitment to establish a Youth Development Council to provide coordination of all youth-related activities, and to facilitate the necessary training, skills building and mentoring to link young people with emerging job opportunities. This is an excellent idea to give young people a say in plans that affect their lives and their future.

Rather than just provide the rote job creation paragraph, the Jubilee manifesto provides necessary benchmarks for providing employment for the youth by guaranteeing that 30 per cent of all appointments, projects and budgets in national development be reserved for them. They will also encourage businesses and organisations to train youths by providing tax incentives to those who take in interns.

Uhuru was the person behind Studio Mashinani, a government project through which the youth can affordably record music and expose their creative talent to the market.

Studio Mashinani provides state-of-the-art equipment and mentorship as well as access to platforms to commercialise their productions. So far, five studios comprising two in Nairobi and one each in Machakos, Mombasa and Kisumu counties are up and running, and plans are underway to eventually spread out to all the 47 counties.

I am not certain that there is a similar project for creative youth anywhere in the world, and it was obviously formulated by someone who listens to and understands young Kenyans.

Finally, by building Silicon Savannah, a world-renowned hub for ICT innovation, ensuring that Nairobi is now ranked as one of the world’s top 10 innovative cities, Uhuru has given us opportunities to join the global marketplace.

Uhuru clearly has his finger on the youth’s pulse and understands what is needed and required to contribute to the workforce and society in general.

The youth love someone who enquires about our hopes and dreams and President Uhuru does just that. If Raila is serious about becoming President, he better learn from his younger counterpart pretty quickly.

Mwenda is the director of communication, Narok county

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