C-19 in Kenya: Youth job scheme: a real deal or an empty promise?

Kenya launched an ambitious plan dubbed Kazi Mtaani in early June that sought to shield thousands of jobless young people from the biting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Department of Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary Charles Hinga said the Sh10 billion ($100 million) programme targeted 270,000 Kenyans, in a country with about 14 million unemployed youths, according to the 2019 census data. Each beneficiary of the project would earn a daily wage of Sh455 ($4.55) and would be engaged in community and infrastructure development projects.

Each beneficiary of the project would earn a daily wage of Sh455 ($4.55) and would be engaged in community and infrastructure development projects.

In the early stages of the pandemic, on 25 March, President Uhuru Kenyatta said he “recognise[d] the anxiety that th[e] pandemic ha[d] caused millions of Kenyan families … with the possibility of job losses and loss of income weighing heavily on their minds”. He announced a reduction of Value Added Tax to 14% from 16% and corporation tax from 30% to 25% and also declared 100% tax relief for individuals with a monthly income of less than Sh24,000 ($240).

Michael Okoth, 33, from Dandora slums in Nairobi, told Africa in Fact that he lost his job as a school bus driver when coronavirus struck, and the Sh2,275 ($22.75) payment from a Kazi Mtaani job, which he receives through his mobile phone weekly, had helped him to cover his family’s daily expenses. “Between April and June, my family and I really struggled to survive and we even [went] without food for a day or two,” says Okoth. Now, the father of two says, he can afford to pay rent, buy food for his family and cater for other basic needs.

But as the pandemic has raged across the globe, many other Kenyans who have endured months under various forms of social restriction have not benefited from the scheme. On 5 August, hundreds of youths from Uasin Gishu in Rift Valley demonstrated, claiming that money meant for their wages was being diverted to other activities by unnamed senior government officials.

The Sh2,275 ($22.75) payment from a Kazi Mtaani job, which he receives through his mobile phone weekly, had helped him to cover his family’s daily expenses.

Joyce Kipchirchir, 27, from Nyathiru on the outskirts of the town of Eldoret in the Rift Valley, who got a job under the Kazi Mtaani scheme, told Africa In Fact in a phone interview that she had been paid  Sh1,365 for 11 days worked, rather than the Sh5,005 that she should have been paid. “We suspect someone is taking advantage of our misfortune,” she said.

On 23 July, youths employed under the Kazi Mtaani programme in Kikuyu, Kiambu County, protested over delayed and low payments. The region’s assistant county commissioner. Rosemary Mwangi, said the issue had been escalated to the relevant county administrators for action. A week later, on 30 July, another protest was held in Nyeri County over the same issue.

Responding to the queries on 5 August, Hinga said that all Kazi Mtaani employees were being paid a standard amount of Sh455 per day, and those who had received Sh1,365 ($13.65) and Sh910 ($9.10) had been paid for two or three days worked. The balance of what they were owed would be paid on the following day (6 August).

“We suspect someone is taking advantage of our misfortune,” she said.

The Kazi Mtaani programme has been charged with favouritism (in the recruitment of candidates). County commissioners, county secretaries and county directors of housing in charge of implementing the programme in their areas of authority have been accused of demanding bribes from those who want to be considered.

“I was not considered for the job because I could not afford to buy chai,” said Okore, 22, a disabled and jobless University of Nairobi graduate who lives in the Mathare slums in the capital (The phrase, “buy chai” is a common euphemism for bribing officials in Kenya). Okore, who said he was from a poor background and an orphan with no direct family to care for him, told Africa in Fact that friends of his had “bought chai” and were now Kazi Mtaani employees.

Given that government programmes may be failing to reach all of their intended beneficiaries, development partners and not-for-profit organisations have stepped in to augment the government’s efforts. On 2 July, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) launched cash transfers and nutrition support for more than 250,000 people in informal settlements in Nairobi. The body’s country director and representative in Kenya, Annalisa Conte, said the cash distributions were aimed at supplementing the Kenyan government’s social protection programmes.

“I was not considered for the job because I could not afford to buy chai,” said Okore, 22, a disabled and jobless University of Nairobi graduate who lives in the Mathare slums in the capital.

Poor urban families usually lived hand-to-mouth, relied on informal day-to-day employment and had no food reserves after months of containment measures, including lockdowns in some areas. “They need all our help now,” she observed.

Meanwhile, Shikilia, a Kenya-based coalition of the private sector and NGOs, entrepreneurs, operators, designers and researchers is working with GiveDirectly, a US-based not-for profit, to help low-income Kenyans living in extreme poverty by making unconditional cash transfers to them via mobile phone. Some 100,000 potential recipients have been identified, according to Shikilia’s website, though it is unclear how many of them have received payments. Each recipient has received at least $30 a month for three months.

While these efforts appear to be having a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable Kenyans, critics say the coronavirus outbreak has brought with it a need to reflect deeply on sustainable, long-lasting plans to deal with other large-scale threats to life and welfare that might arise in the globalised world. “The coronavirus crisis has reminded us that we need to focus seriously on how we address the challenges facing the vulnerable in our society in terms of social protection,” Technical University of Kenya communications lecturer Julius Bosire told Africa in Fact.

The coronavirus outbreak has brought with it a need to reflect deeply on sustainable, long-lasting plans to deal with other large-scale threats to life and welfare that might arise in the globalised world.

The Kenyan government needed to support productive sectors of the economy, to create the conditions necessary to generate employment opportunities for the thousands of jobless youths, said Bosire. Among the measures he proposed for achieving this were extending tax holidays to businesses, reducing the cost of doing business by cutting energy costs, and incentivising multinational firms to set up operations in Kenya.

“Technically, an economically empowered person can be assumed to be socially protected,” he said. But in recent decades, Kenya has seen hundreds of thousands of young people, high school and college graduates, failing to find work. Other demographics have increasingly fallen by the wayside in terms of government support. “Hence, our focus should not just be on the youth – it should be wider and broader to cover even the ageing population,” Bosire said.

Deputy President William Ruto, in a tweet on 24 July, challenged youths not to depend on formal employment, but to come up with innovative ways to create employment for themselves during the coronavirus crisis. The government intended to “nurture, encourage and protect” micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses, he said, because they had the power to “boost the livelihoods of the vulnerable and provide an environment for the youths to unlock their potential”.

Deputy President William Ruto, in a tweet on 24 July, challenged youths not to depend on formal employment, but to come up with innovative ways to create employment for themselves during the coronavirus crisis.

But critics say the Kazi Mtaani programme was hurriedly conceived, to give the appearance of doing something for vulnerable youths, and without a clear roadmap. Under the plan, university graduates were being offered bush-clearing jobs that paid a small amount per day, when they might have been engaged in activities that made use of their skills, Dr Michael Okello, an economist and independent media commentator based in Nairobi, told Africa in Fact. “Were there ever any clear plans for this initiative?”

The government had mobilised, both internally and externally, “massive funds” to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, but the country’s medical care and support had not improved, Okello said. Moreover, in previous years, important sectors of the economy such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction, among others, had not received support, which would have helped to generate jobs for young people, and these sectors were still receiving no support.

“These failures are all due to greed and corruption,” said Okello. “The government has a solid track record in corruption, rather than in serving the people. Where are the jobs that were promised in 2017, when about 40% of our youth are unemployed?”

“The government has a solid track record in corruption, rather than in serving the people.” – Dr Michael Okello.

Indeed, there have been persistent allegations of misuse and theft of Covid-19-related funds. On 29 July, Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said “billions of shillings” had been allocated to addressing Covid-19, but Kenyans who had tested positive for the virus “still lacked access to proper medical care”.

On 26 June 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta, launching his campaign for a second term, pledged to create at least 1.3 million jobs a year. Youth employment was “at the heart of his administration,” he said. Yet according to 2019 census data published by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, some 38.9% of young Kenyans were still jobless two years later.

Central Bank of Kenya Governor Dr Patrick Njoroge faulted the structure of Kenya’s economy for delivering economic growth without jobs. He said the country was focusing on huge infrastructural spending, which did not spread wealth among many Kenyans. Those without jobs, Njoroge argued, remained unemployed and those at work did not see hikes in their wages. These sorts of expenditures boost GDP numbers, he said, “but you cannot eat GDP”. What was needed was specific income. That was what people wanted: jobs and income.

These sorts of expenditures boost GDP numbers, he said, “but you cannot eat GDP”. What was needed was specific income.

President Kenyatta announced a post-election pact with opposition leaders on 9 March this year, widely publicised with a photograph of himself shaking hands with the leader of the main opposition, Raila Odinga. But with the opposition virtually non-existent, Kenyans have been left with no one to put pressure on the government to fulfil its pre-election promises, including youth job creation.

“One handshake killed the opposition,” says Wilson Rono, a human rights activist in the coastal city of Mombasa. “The media are policed by government, while civil society actors are routinely intimidated and arrested. There is no one to hold those in power accountable.”

 

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Mark Kapchanga is a senior economics writer for the Standard newspaper in Kenya and a columnist for the Global Times, an English-language newspaper in China. He is pursuing a PhD in investigative business journalism at the University of Nairobi.

C-19: Work and Jobs in Kenya

In 2019, no less than 38.57% of young Kenyans (or 5,341,182 of 13,777,600) were out of work, according to census data. Article 260 of Kenya’s Constitution defines a youth as a person aged between 18 and 34. Even those with jobs were struggling to make ends meet because most jobs were lowly paid. As the government saw it, the annual number of formal employment opportunities available could not match the rate of population growth.

In the first quarter of this year, some 735,711 youths were laid off, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ Quarterly Labour Force for the period. But aside from encouraging jobless young Kenyans to engage in self-employment, the government did little to inspire people to create their own jobs.

In the first quarter of this year, some 735,711 youths were laid off.

All this was before the first case of coronavirus was reported in Kenya. The gloomy picture was darkened by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s warning in early May that more than half a million jobs might be lost in six months should the rate of coronavirus infections go up. As at 28 June, Kenya had recorded 6,070 cases of the deadly disease, with 1,971 and 143 recoveries and deaths, respectively. This represents a steep growth of 313% over the past month when the country had 1,471 cases.

However, the reliability of the figures have been put to the test, with the police making arrests over ‘fake’ coronavirus testing kits. While the government had said at least 35,000 samples would be worked on in 24 hours following a new innovation at the Kenya Medical Research Institute in April, the average testing capacity in the country still stands at 5,000 a day, according to the Chief Administrative Secretary for Health, Dr Rashid Aman.

The gloomy picture was darkened by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s warning in early May that more than half a million jobs might be lost in six months should the rate of coronavirus infections go up.

The government is struggling to stabilise the country’s wobbling economy as it is. In September 2019, the World Bank forecast a GDP growth rise of 5.9% in 2020, underpinned by private consumption, but revised it downwards to 1.5% in its Kenya Economic Update report in April, pegging the review on uncertainty and decreased economic activities due to the coronavirus pandemic. Evaluating the likely impact of the novel coronavirus on Kenya, the Bretton Woods Institution said in the report that GDP might “contract to 1% in the worst-case scenario”. The virus pandemic has already hit tourism, agricultural exports and remittances.

In March, President Kenyatta announced a raft of interventions aimed at easing the financial burden on businesses and entrepreneurs in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. To protect jobs and provide certainty to employers, the government would offer 100% tax relief for people earning a gross monthly income of up to Ksh24,000 and a reduction of income tax paid by those in higher tax brackets from a maximum of 30% down to 25%.

Further, turnover tax rates for micro, small and medium enterprises were reduced from 3% to 1%, and the listing of individuals and micro-, small- or medium-sized entities by the Credit Reference Bureau was temporarily suspended with effect from 1 April, 2020. Moreover, Value Added Tax (VAT) was reduced from 16% to 14%, also effective from 1 April, and the Kenya Revenue Authority expedited the payment of verified VAT refund claims amounting to Ksh10 billion “within three weeks” to improve cash flows for businesses.

However, these ambitious measures have hardly had any impact on jobs protection and creation. As at 30 May, according to the Ministry of Health, at least 300,000 people had lost their jobs since 13 March, when Kenya reported its first COVID-19 case. It is unclear how many businesses have closed shop so far as a result of the coronavirus. However, it is clear that businesses have drastically scaled down their operations as employees get axed, while others have been asked to review their contracts from fixed terms to a pay-as-you-work model.

As at 30 May, according to the Ministry of Health, at least 300,000 people had lost their jobs since 13 March, when Kenya reported its first COVID-19 case.

Solomon Karanja, a long-distance bus driver operating between Nairobi and Bungoma in western Kenya, says he has been forced to engage in selling roasted and boiled maize at his home in the Mathare slums after the government imposed a ban on travel in and out of Nairobi in April. The father of four says it has been “hell for my family as we cope with one-meal-a day” due to reduced income.

The situation has not been any better for Rashid Omar, a dealer in mobile phones, who says the crisis has forced him to shut down his shop, rendering six of his employees jobless. “I now run the business on my own online to manage the overhead costs in the age of diminished returns,” he said.

The father of four says it has been “hell for my family as we cope with one-meal-a day” due to reduced income.

The biting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have not spared the media. Journalists are being laid off and others forced to take pay cuts of between 25% and 50%. So harsh has been the situation that on 28 June, the Kenya Editors Guild said some media companies were exploiting the pandemic to enforce layoffs and salary cuts. The editors claimed that at least 300 journalists had lost their jobs in the past nine months, and the pandemic was “likely to exacerbate an already dire situation”.

On 29 June, Charles Kanyi, the member of parliament for Starehe constituency in Nairobi, claimed the police had supervised the overnight demolition of hundreds of kiosks in Gikomba, a downtown second-hand clothes market, arguably the largest in East Africa, that employs thousands of people, according to the Nairobi Governor, Mike Mbuvi. Kanyi argued that ongoing fires at the open-air market were a scheme to displace the original stall owners. At the very least, the move contradicted the government’s claimed commitment to shield small- and medium-sized businesses from the impact of the pandemic. On June 29, the legislator was arrested over claims of “incitement”.

The move contradicted the government’s claimed commitment to shield small- and medium-sized businesses from the impact of the pandemic.

The situation has not been made any better by delayed payments, and in some cases non-payment, for services and goods supplied to county and national governments. The officials of many of these institutions are in any case notorious for demanding kickbacks to honour their work obligations. According to the National Treasury, the government had uncleared debt to local businesses of Ksh368.9 billion (about $3.46 billion) as at 31 March this year.

With the President Kenyatta’s lifting of the lockdown on 6 July, commentators say the country’s leadership seems to have resigned itself to being torn between continued containment with little positive impact and the reopening of the country to stir economic activities. Blogger Robert Alai claimed the lifting of the lockdown would pave the way for a rise in infections, while veteran journalist David Makali, in a tweet, termed the president’s pronouncement as a signal to the “age of personal responsibility”.

Blogger Robert Alai claimed the lifting of the lockdown would pave the way for a rise in infections.

There have been widespread claims that the government was doing nothing material enough to contain the virus. Some politicians have called on Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe to scale down his daily media briefings, which focus on numbers that add little value to the battle in containing the pandemic.

Instead, argues Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, the cabinet secretary should work towards the mass testing of people for fast identification of cases, swift treatment for those people who test positive, and immediate isolation to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But the government seems to be struggling to do this.

As things stand, Kenya appears to be on a me-too path, adopting measures that other countries, particularly the UK, have adopted, in order to seem to be confronting the outbreak. “There is no serious undertaking in battling coronavirus,” says Michael Simiyu, a public policy analyst based in Kisumu. “What have we achieved since the lockdown, apart from rising cases of the disease?”

 

We’d love to hear from you! Join The Wicked Conversation by leaving your comments below, or send your letter to the editor to richard@gga.org.

 

Mark Kapchanga is a senior economics writer for the Standard newspaper in Kenya and a columnist for the Global Times, an English-language newspaper in China. He is pursuing a PhD in investigative business journalism at the University of Nairobi.

COVID-19

A GGA RESPONSE

MAY 2020

CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND YOUTH FORMATION

Recommendations on child and youth advocacy, ECD centres and the implementation of the proposed Department of Basic Education Response Document

On 19 March, 2020 classrooms and learning environments across South Africa closed their doors in an attempt to keep the Coronavirus disease at bay. At midnight of 26 March, the entire country was placed under lockdown in an effort to flatten the curve of infections. Initially, it was planned that schools would resume on 18 April, which would have resulted in an extended holiday and two weeks to catch up – but the virus has proved more taxing than initially thought. The lockdown has been extended and now in mid-May, a month later, there is still uncertainty. The pandemic is challenging the education sector with a simple, yet pressing question: “what now?”

At the outset, the pandemic has revealed just how far-off many countries in the region are from realising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations to address global challenges. The pandemic has had both a direct and indirect impact on child and youth access to quality education, and it serves to challenge their health, current development efforts to address high youth unemployment rates, and their social protection (UN Sustainable Goals/2030). The following serves as a tool for policy development to assist in a response. The South African Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, and Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education, have been grappling with how to phase back learner attendance and “save the academic year”.

It is clear that doing nothing about this pandemic is not an option for government and the private sector alike. To quote Hubert Mweli, Director-General of the Department of Basic Education, during a briefing on the way forward for schools on 29 April, 2020, “We die from the virus or we die from poverty and hunger.” Mweli’s statement clearly indicates that South Africa and the wellbeing of its citizens is not being taken lightly. International experience has taught us a great deal. South Africa is in the more fortunate position of being able to learn from other countries, yet the national context is not that simple; South Africa – with nine provinces, 11 official languages, 12,408,755 learners with a wide variety of backgrounds and learning abilities, 24, 998 schools (excluding informal ECD centres and private home-schooling clusters) and 407,000 educators spread across rural, peri-urban and urban areas, and the biggest wealth gap globally between rich and poor – faces its challenges. Every country is unique and needs a contextually relevant and flexible strategy for a COVID-19 response in our schools (National Development Plan 2030).

A phased approach to learners returning to schools seems like the most viable option. This document explains the points the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has addressed in their COVID-19 development plan draft, released on 29 April, 2020, with added input and suggestions from GGA to consider for education development and youth formation. Read more here: Department of Basic Education Response Document

Press Release

Good Governance Africa (GGA) takes great pleasure in announcing that natural resource economist and policy analyst Dr Ross Harvey will be joining the organisation from 1 May, 2020.

GGA is a research and advocacy non-profit organisation dedicated to improving governance across Africa with a focus on several core areas: natural resources, peace and security, democratic governance and political processes, improving the economic environment, and youth and marginalised/vulnerable groups.

With offices across Africa, GGA’s work is based on exploring and advancing the key governance principles of democracy, accountability and transparency, and combining these with upholding the rule of law and respecting human, civil and property rights.

Ross’s task at GGA is to establish a non-renewable natural resources project (extractive industries) to ensure that the industry becomes genuinely sustainable and contributes to Africa achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Mindful that the priority for most Africans is to find meaningful and sustainable employment, his key objective will be to concentrate on development-orientated governance improvements that connect the extractive industries to green industrialisation, land tenure, clean water, and renewable energy and transport systems.

Ross has been dealing with governance issues in various forms across this sector since 2007. He has a PhD in economics from the University of Cape Town, and his thesis research focused on the political economy of oil and institutional development in Angola and Nigeria.

While completing his PhD, Ross worked as a senior researcher on extractive industries and wildlife governance at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), and in May 2019 became an independent conservation consultant.

GGA looks forward to working with Ross and believes he represents a valuable addition to our team.

For more information and interviews, please contact Chris Maroleng on chrism@gga.org

Smarter, innovative and youth driven

Peace and security: youth

Young people must be at the centre of all of Africa’s plans and processes to create sustainable peace and development

AA group of activists demonstrate against
unemployment in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2019. A lack of jobs, especially for youth, has slowed down the economy to a point where unemployed adults depend on a small working-class group. Photo: SIMON MAINA / AFP

In 2015 the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2250, which recognises the critical, positive role of young people in peace and security. The resolution reinforces the need for their active participation and engagement in peace initiatives and the formulation of inclusive policies towards achieving sustainable peace. Resolution 2250 is the first such resolution fully dedicated to the important role youth play in the promotion of peace and security; it recognises the role of young people in security processes, integrated into five pillars: participation, protection, prevention, partnership, disengagement and reintegration. Additionally, in 2016, to recommend effective responses at the local, national, regional and international levels, then-UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon commissioned an independent study on youth, peace and security. The study report titled, ‘The Missing Peace’, which is considered a blueprint for implementing resolution 2250, proposed ways of supporting youth-led, peacebuilding processes.

It offered insights into inclusive approaches that could be used to engage youth in peace and security, recognising young people as an indispensable asset in building lasting peace in societies rather than as a challenge or a problem. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs is the UN agency responsible for supporting and monitoring the implementation of the UN World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the General Assembly in 1995 and broadly reflected in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Currently, UNDESA is working with UN partners, the commonwealth secretariat, governments, the private sector, nongovernmental organisations, youth-led networks and others to ensure that the contribution of young people in advancing peace and security as espoused in resolution 2250 is fully recognised and supported. In Kenya, for example, UNDESA is collaborating with the government and members of the UN country team on implementing a project aimed at promoting sustainable peace through national youth policies within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since the 2010 promulgation of the Kenyan Constitution, the country has introduced initiatives aimed at consolidating democratic processes to achieve accountable, inclusive and participatory democracy. In 2016, the government initiated a review process of the Kenya National Youth Policy to align it to the 2010 Constitution and factor in new and emerging youth challenges and opportunities. The reviewed national youth policy has key provisions on youth peace and security, recognising that peace, security and sustainable development can only be achieved by comprehensively tackling issues that affect young people and involving them as stakeholders and decision makers. Kenya is a youthful nation: almost 80% of the population is aged 35 years and younger, and including them as stakeholders in community-driven security and peace building initiatives is vital. As the largest proportion of the community, young people are often the main cause, and victims, of crime and conflict.

They are an integral part of society and it is important to give them a sense of responsibility and belonging by ensuring that they take a lead role in matters that most affect them. Youth-led and youth-based peace-building organisations should therefore be included in promoting a culture of peace, by contributing to achieving SDG 16 on peace, stability and human rights. Kenya faces complex and longstanding conflicts. Many proposed solutions to these have been tried and they have not worked as they should. But through the UNDESA project, young Kenyans have come up with innovative ways to prevent conflict in their communities, reconstruct and restore social fabric, and to heal and pursue socioeconomic transformation. The project has enabled young people, drawing on both their fresh ideas as well as the experience of adults, to propose innovative and new approaches to dealing with numerous peace and security related problems, including exclusion, marginalisation, inequality and poverty, among others.

For example, TT, a Hip-Hop artist, is using art and culture to promote peace and security through his initiative, wacha gun shika mic (drop the gun and grab the mic), which targets vulnerable youth living in high-risk areas to leave crime and drugs and promote peace and security. The project has created a platform for young people to learn, share and engage to become effective peace builders in their communities. Although there is still a long way to go and much more work to be done, such innovative approaches to peace and security seem to be working, and more young people are encouraged and empowered to come up with more creative and innovative ideas. Christine Odera, the national coordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network (CYPAN) is passionate about addressing violent extremism, and through her project, A Legacy of Prevention, she’s building on knowledge gaps previously identified in the prevention and countering violent extremism (PVE) in Kenya.

The project is developing locally informed knowledge that can aid communities to prevent and counter violent extremism, and meaningfully contribute to peace and stability in their areas. Youth, and their perspectives, are important not only to the success of CVE programmes, but also to the broader processes of conflict transformation and sustaining peace. Youth have to be the central focus of CVE if governments and civil society want to halt recruitment into violent extremist groups. Javan Ofula, a young activist and a poet, is running community justice centres – an innovative approach to legal empowerment that places the community at its heart, decentralising legal empowerment initiatives to enhance access to justice for poor and marginalised communities. Stanley Ogolla is the coordinator of The Youth Congress, an organisation that promotes leadership and participation in governance and development.

The organisation uses sports to mobilise young people, to bridge relationships across social, economic and cultural divides in communities, and to develop a sense of shared identity among groups that might otherwise treat each other with hostility or violence. The Youth Congress also runs programmes that offer young people opportunities for education, employment and political participation. The aim is to give them more life opportunities, reducing their vulnerability to possible radicalisation and recruitment into violent extremist groups. There are also other new ideas such as the Members of County Assembly Youth Caucus, a platform developed by young members of local government to enable them to champion issues of major concern to young people, including peace and security. One of the group’s initiatives is a caucus to create awareness of Resolution 2250 and to advocate for youth engagement on peace and security processes.

In Kenya, it is encouraging to see this and other innovations by young people that are helping to accelerate peace and security in the country, and hopefully they might soon be replicated elsewhere in Africa and beyond. An important factor is that these initiatives are youth led and they have created mutually beneficial partnerships. As we continue to strive for sustainable peace and development in Africa, youth must be at the centre of all the plans and processes. Initiatives must be smarter, innovative and youth driven to achieve peace and development objectives.

Raphael Obonyo is a public policy analyst. He’s served as a consultant with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). An alumnus of Duke University, he has authored and co-authored numerous books, including Conversations about the Youth in Kenya (2015). He is a TEDx fellow and has won various awards.