“Inclusive” BBI does not address unemployment issues facing the youth.

By Juliah Atieno

According to the 2019 national census results released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 35.7 million Kenyans are aged below 35 years, accounting for 75.1 percent of the country’s total population. However, despite being the majority, youth interests have always been overlooked.

A case in point is the current Building Bridges Initiative discourse where most focus and discussions revolve around creating positions for the political class. It somehow attempts to address the youth matters in several eye-catching aspects but does not capture the approaches to address their existing needs and challenges.

The most attractive aspect of it all is the economic empowerment where youth SMEs will have a seven year tax holiday in case constitutional changes will be made in favor of this report. But the matter of concern is, how is it even possible to give tax holidays to youths who lack space, resources and mentorship to enable them even start the businesses. Youths in slums have several ideas ranging from artistic skills and talents in performing arts, media and other potential income earning ventures of interest to them .They need business training, mentoring , incubation and loaning in order to actualize their ideas but the same government trying to entice them with the BBI report has not been in a position to inclusively implement youth programs. This has been as a result of inadequate attention  to cases of corruption, poor planning and mismanagement of youth resources, leaving them puzzled and their hopes shuttered, with others ending up involved in criminal activities.

Unemployment is the greatest challenge in Kenya and the World Bank projects that the unemployment rate will rise to 10.5 per cent this year. Most of the youths in slums are learned with certificates and skills but have no jobs. They carry their certificates each day knocking several offices and spending a lot of time in cyber cafes applying for jobs they never get feedback from.

What will happen to the majority of unemployed youth in case this report is implemented? How will the youth be in a position to access existing employment opportunities when the report does not consider facilitating access to opportunities through creation of right environments and networks for the youth both in the government and the private sectors labor markets?

For youths in slums like Mukuru ,the BBI in itself sounds like a song because they feel it is just a report for the elite and people in power trying to high up their political games. They feel their views and concerns are not captured in this report because they were not involved in public participation and for some of them, with or without the report sailing through, their problems and issues still stick around with them. Most of them are already suffering from depression, disappointments, and crimes and in some extreme scenarios of suicidal attempts due to loss of hope and shuttered dreams.

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