The youth constitute nearly 65% of Africa’s population. In Kenya, 80% of the country’s citizenry is below the age of 35 – African Union’s age-limit for a person to be referred to as a youth. Those aged between 15 – 24 years comprise 18% while the figure for those between ages 25 – 35 account for 21% of the population. This means that the youth will play a critical role in the socio-economic and political advancement of the country.
However, the Kenyan youth continues to face a myriad of challenges: Unemployment among the youth is on the rise – 60% of all unemployed persons in Kenyan are under the age of 30 and 92% of these do not have vocational or professional skills training. Nearly a third of HIV/AIDS patients in Kenya are aged between 15 and 30. The Kenyan youth also seems to be a passive lot in terms of political participation with 62% of them being vulnerable to voter bribery and 40% saying they would only vote into office leaders who bribe them. As at 2016, 76% of Kenyan youth aged between 18 and 35 also reported not to have benefited from government-sponsored initiatives. The young people are also not adequately involved in environment conservation initiatives, yet Kenya’s forest cover is only at 6.99% of its territory, way below United Nations Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) prescribed 10% minimum crown cover standard. Other challenges include youth radicalization and subsequent recruitment into terror groups as well as nature and environmental degradation.
These call for concerted efforts among youth-led movements to constructively engage power wielders and other stakeholders in initiating a positive paradigm shift in the youth agenda. The challenges also point to possible gaps in implementation of national and regional youth-related policy frameworks and legal instruments that Kenya commits to in its development plans and within regional normative regimes. There is therefore a need to strengthen this commitment in order to make the youth strategic partners in national development and further leverage their role in supporting the achievement of Kenya’s Vision 2030 and African Union’s Agenda 2063 – which sets to make Africa’s development a citizens’’ led initiative.
The slow advancement of the youth population, majorly due to the aforementioned challenges, has a negative effect on socio-economic progress of any society. Poor governance, limited participation of the youth in public policy and governance affairs, limited political will to empower the youth, and weak capabilities among the Kenyan youth populations and civil society organizations to hold governments to account on such issues also inform such negative impact.
The Youth Advancement Initiative (YAI), a unique Kenyan youth run initiative was founded in 2013 to respond to such challenges. It seeks to help nurture a resilient youth who can spearhead the youth agenda at national and regional levels and encourage civic engagement to protect youths from the various exclusionary governance or decision-making processes. The ultimate objective is to ensure improved governance and expanded space for youth related human rights in order to foster a democratic, peaceful and just society in Kenya.
YAI therefore advocates for full compliance with youth-related policies at the various levels and actualization of their aspirations. This also involves fostering and encouraging positive and progressive engagement with policy makers, the private sector, media, Pan African citizen movements, donor community, intergovernmental organizations, the general citizens and other stakeholders to create positive social change and facilitate realization of an empowered youth citizenry in Kenya and Africa at large
- To promote active citizenship of the Kenyan youth on decision-making processes within their
- To support the Kenyan youth in networking and connecting with key stakeholders and decision-makers on governance and rights issues in order to leverage their contribution towards deepening democratic governance and justice in
- To strengthen the social and economic agency of the youth so they can take an active role in development and the establishment of a just, inclusive, and peaceful
- To promote knowledge management and evidence-based policy formulation, implementation and monitoring through quality research on the magnitude, causes, and impact of youth challenges and best practice approaches to address
- To assist the youth in realizing the aspirations enshrined within the national, regional and continental youth