21 February 2019

Kenya: Don't Want to Be Young, Gifted and Jobless? Join Politics, They're Dishing Out Candy There

Photo: Daily Trust

Recent statistics show that Kenya has a population of 52 million and in that large mass of people's, we have a median age of 19 years.

In a nutshell, the majority of our population are teenagers. This statistic is visibly true and should be worrying to our president especially in the context of creating opportunities for this energetic bracket of youth.

Take a walk down Toi market; notice how vibrant it is? The different stalls, the shoppers and material on display, bustle and noise. The market begins to come alive at 11am... Now try and guess how many of the vendors are above the age of 35. You will hardly see any.

Our population is young, there's no hiding from the fact. That means that when priorities are set, the majority population should be the basis of every decision. But is this so? Every day, we see young people toiling, making ends meet and we interact with youth daily, they are everywhere. Well, everywhere except in prominent leadership positions.

Why oh why, every time Uhuru Kenyatta President announces appointments, are there hardly any youth? The president's legacy focus is the Big Four agenda, but what does that really mean to 19-year-olds?

Food security is important, but many youth are not in farming or agriculture. Buying land is a luxury, which with time many are finding more and more difficult to acquire.

Meanwhile, we have farmers who are disgruntled because their produce is going to waste. Many young entrepreneurs have entered the business of selling eggs, and cannot compete with eggs coming from Uganda at a lower cost.

Universal healthcare is fantastic, we all need access to health. But Ksh500 comes to about Ksh20 a day each month, which is not that easy to come by for many. Shocking, I know. Also, the amount seems reasonable, but health is not prioritised in young people's mentality.

Serious illness is far from the minds of young people, so saving up for healthcare doesn't make sense to them. Don't let me even get started on housing, it should be called rooming, since many youth can afford a room but not a house.

Recently, a journalist asked me, "What would you tell young people who want to succeed in life quickly? What would you tell a 19-year-old?" I paused to consider the answer. This question was actually a tough one for me; I could talk about democracy and law and give an opinion on political matters. But this question stopped me in my tracks.

I wanted to say the usual, "Work hard, there's no need to fake it until you make it." But fakers are getting ahead in our country. And working hard doesn't quite cut it. There are people who work hard every day and have no access to anything. What makes a young person successful? Doing anything in this country is difficult, the environment is brutal and nothing close to conducive.

How much we pay in taxes is painful, every month, I look at how much is taken out of my pay and it shocks me every time, It is not something I can ever get used to. Our view of success is materialistic, so obviously youth equate it with wealth. There is no recognition for anything else.

Is the president identifying with majority of his population? His recent appointments, most of them to political posts, cannot be said to be inspired.

Those who fought for electoral seats and missed them are now being rewarded. It appears that they are not completely pushed to the curb, appointments are still up for grabs. The majority of those appointments were politicians; the minority were those who were not in politics, such as Paul Tergat and Catherine Ndereba, who were the only logical selections for the sectors they were placed in.

This is a country, not an arcade where positions can be handed out like candy, depending on which nagging child runs to you first. The real answer would be, do what you can to be in politics somehow, even failures are rewarded there in this country.

Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW


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