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Will The COVID-19 Paradigm Shift Result To A Youth Renaissance Moment?
IMAGE COURTESY/ empowermentopportunities.com
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Will The COVID-19 Paradigm Shift Result To A Youth Renaissance Moment? 

BY ELIJAH KAGIRI WAHOME.

The International Youth Day marked globally on every August 12, was this year celebrated albeit without vigorous activities hampered by the ongoing global pandemic.

But, as the world keeps trying to figure out the new normal after the disruption caused by Coronavirus, the crisis brought about by this novel has also come with it, an opportunity for the ambitious youth to explore, reasons why the youth ought to adjust accordingly to this dynamism and reap from the benefits that it provides.

This, however, will only happen should the youth embrace the existing options or adapt to emerging capacity building initiatives to improve their livelihood as follows:

  1. Utilizing Information Communication and Technology (ICT)

With most industries taking the digital approach in modes of doing business, it is time for the youth to fully embrace technological innovation as income generating avenues and problem solvers. This will minimize exploitation by unscrupulous middle-men, who have been taking advantage of the vulnerable youth in seeking economic opportunities.

The traditional brick and mortar business models seem to be fading away and moreover, they are costly to manage especially for those youth without capital hence digital commerce provides a viable alternative.

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Therefore the youth should navigate away from the routine corrupt patronage economic systems.  And this will only be tackled through embracing direct digital marketing platforms, right from the production site to global niche markets such as China and India with an estimated population of 2.7 billion.

In addition Africa expansive market boasts of a population of 1.3 billion people. Notably, the global market trends exhibit a youthful consumer base that is technologically equipped thus tapping into such demand driven economy will enhance wealth creation for the youth.

However, Africa’s expansive and minimal internet connectivity and high energy prices must be taken into consideration by finding meticulous plans which in return can or should be registered with youth organizations to assist in advancing this initiative via participatory resource pooling as compared to individualistic approaches.

  1. They should embrace government and private sector initiatives.

The government in partnership with the private sector and NGOs ought to collaborate more towards establishing sustainable youth capacity building projects.

In Kenya, noble initiatives such as Kazi Mtaani, KEPSA’s Ajira digital project, Public Service Commission (PSC) graduate scheme and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) are some of the initiatives that youth should embrace with zeal.

In addition, the devolved government units ought to commence youth empowerment projects in collaboration with aid organizations at the grassroots levels.

But, the scourge of overreliance on the government to provide employment opportunities must be discouraged as the government should only be viewed as an enabler towards enhancing a libertarian economy that discards patronage networks.

It is prudent that every citizen is assured of genuine rewards from one’s effort as that promotes national ethics and curtailing corruption networks.

Moreover, governments should continuously rectify the infrastructure deficits, high energy costs and provide tax incentives for small businesses to stimulate industrial growth.

This will enhance low production costs and promote youth innovation initiatives and in return reduce the dependency syndrome towards government’s formal employment and boost youth wealth creation which will provide more employment opportunities.

Those serving in established organizations should transparently provide quota based internship opportunities for the youth.

With such incentives, the youth will be encouraged to commence income generating activities and discard their urge to seek decent livelihood through repugnant mediums.

They will avoid desperate and perilous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe. The human smuggling routes though North Africa states such as Libya, threatens vulnerable African youth whose lives are at risk during such endeavours.

They also risk becoming victims of human trafficking and being recruited unto extremist organizations once they embark on such illegal immigration channels.

It is an affront towards humanity to lose the future human resource through such avenues, therefore, the society needs to embrace the vulnerable youth who are educated and have aspirations for a decent livelihood.

It is not a crime for an ambitious human being to seek a better life away from squalor and hopelessness. But searching for greener pastures should be done in a legal and safe way.

  1. They should acquire life skills mentorship

The crucial role of peer mentors is needed to guide the vulnerable youth. It is prudent to acquire both soft and hard skills in an effort to navigate the modern challenges in the society.

The youth should be guided to make critical life changing decisions from a sober perspective and avoid negative influence that may compromise their life

They ought to be mentored and cushioned from drug and substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, criminal activities and spiritual indiscipline such as joining secret societies or occultism.

The youth must embrace guidance and counselling avenues from professionals so as to curb various forms of addiction and rectify negative psychological effects.

They ought to understand that seeking professional help is strength and not a weakness. Thus the misguided notion that, “toughness is of man or woman, and seeking help exhibits weakness” must be discarded to reduce suicide rates and impulsive reactions from frustrated youth

In addition learning conflict resolution skills enhances sobriety and cohesiveness. This will prevent gender based violence incidences which are rampant nowadays.

The guardians must ensure that they do not exacerbate the precarious situation through domestic violence. The era of shaming the ambitious young women and men due to lack of employment opportunities is morally repugnant.

It is not their will to be confined to harsh economic prospects. Hence holders of collateral such as land title deeds or log books should endeavor to support their unemployed youth to access financial support from banks or other microfinance institutions.

It is not an abomination for a guardian to support their kin, moreover the retrogressive cultural practices of holding to such crucial documents until the last breath has no place in modernity.

Such support should be rendered to responsible youth who have acquired proper mentorship.

The notion of making quick money, rather than earning money must be discarded. Thus mentorship will empower vulnerable youth to embrace effort and merit as legitimate avenues for them to advance their livelihood

The formation of youth based organizations to advance their plight is essential, the youth ought to seek linkage and partnerships with noble networking channels such as the government and Non-governmental organizations (NGO’s).

  1. They should embark on Urban to Rural migration.

Traditional migratory trends depicted a rural to urban migration pattern as most energetic youth sought employment opportunities in urban centres. This led to the growth of crowded informal settlements, which accommodates over 60 percent of Nairobi’s population. The shanties provide affordable livelihood opportunities mainly shelter and food.

However the pandemic seems to have rattled this arrangement. Hence with rising unemployment in an already vulnerable segment in society, it is time to rethink this narrative. Nobody knows if a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic will occur, and what stringent measures will be imposed moving forward.

It is imperative for those inhabiting our informal suburbs to migrate back to their rural homes. This will ease their tough unpredictable economic trends at hand. And help them escape the deplorable living conditions where basic amenities are a rare commodity. Their rural kin also ought to embrace them back without casting aspersions.

In addition the patriarchal dominated society should release the land deeds for their returning kin. It is time for the guardians to support their youth with collateral and land adjudication to embark on farming. Notably relocating to the rural regions requires moral courage and determination, since the opposite has been the norm.

The youth also ought to shun any discouragement from embarking on such life transforming endeavours. It is worth residing in the rural regions where economic conditions are favourable compared to the robust mind boggling city life. This will be better for their mental health and economic well-being.

  1. They should revert to Agriculture Production

The demand for healthy organic agricultural products remains a core humanity demand. Thus agricultural production through advanced mechanisms aimed at conserving the environment, is a viable economic venture.

Therefore they ought to adopt land leasing for farming as registered youth groups or individuals. Notably, conservation agriculture proves to be environmentally friendly and a sustainable avenue for supporting food security.

Robust agriculture production will supply markets in the Middle East and Asia. These regions provide reliable markets due to the high demand for horticultural products. Consequently, agriculture which was abhorred by a majority of young people should provide a dependable income generating alternative.

In this regard, agriculture production and environmental conservation should be embraced to curb negative climate change.

All citizens should endeavour to conserve the environment as a patriotic and humanity mandate. The government must engage local communities in conserving our water catchment towers mainly; Aberdares, Mt. Elgon, Cherangani Hills, Mau Complex and Mt. Kenya forests. The politicization of such conservation efforts should be dismissed immediately including game poaching targeting our wildlife and pollution of fresh water resources must be stopped to protect the flora and fauna.

However, with the growing population rate and high cost of energy, deforestation will remain a challenge. This is as a result of citizens seeking firewood for domestic consumption and supporting illegal charcoal business.

The misguided notion, that wildlife belongs to the government and citizens have no mandate towards its protection is misguided.

The youth should be engaged in a symbiotic relationship with the conservation agencies as environmental conservation ambassadors.

This will provide a paradigm shift right from the grassroots on the need to conserve our environment. This will curb negative climatic responses such as desertification and unpredictable rainfall patterns which affects robust agriculture production.

  1. Reject Political Manipulation and Negative Ethnicity

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that, your neighbour is your best ally. Notably during the curfew most citizens relied on their neighbours for moral and material support.

The retrogressive divisive techniques applied by rogue politicians are retrogressive. The youth must discern that it is possible to thrive without political incitement and negative ethnicity.

The restricted movements provided a self-reflecting moment, for the youth on how to navigate the challenges of life without depending on sectarian factions.

Moving forward, the youth ought to shun negative ethnicity and incitement. Patriotism should be their driving force, since politically instigated conflicts have proven to be of no value.

In this regard, the global era promotes international cooperation and mutual co-existence with like-minded people who aim towards achieving a common good.

The youth should embrace inter-racial or inter-ethnic marriages as a paradigm shift away from archaic identity based discriminatory practices.

Youth should discern that modern technology provides communication mediums that cover the entire globe regardless of one’s identity. Modern human interactions should be guided by progressive political ideologies that unite humanity and innovative business ideas. There exists no room for the retrogressive political and identity based conflicts that bedevil our modern society.

Notably, manipulative politicians will only embrace youth as political militias, aimed to propel them to political power.

Hence vulnerable youth engage in electoral violence which threatens peace and security in society at the behest of their leaders.

Regrettably the vulnerable youth remain confined to the periphery in matters national development once their rogue leaders ascend to political power.

Therefore it is an awakening moment for our youth to shun such retrogressive trends and to embrace sobriety moving forward.

Elijah Kagiri has 3 years of NGO professional experience implementing youth empowerment projects in Nairobi and Kilifi County, where he served as a field facilitator implementing community development projects. The projects included, Yes Youth Can (YYC) and Kenya Youth Employment and Skills Programme (KYE-S). Currently he offers consultancy on youth capacity building and conflict resolution. He is a Political Science and Sociology graduate from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) and is currently enrolled for a Master’s degree in Peace Studies and International Relations at Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations (HIPSIR).

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