By Mukanzi Lauretta
The much anticipated launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report this past week has seemingly torn the country into three camps; those for it, those against it and those who, frankly, do not care.
The report is the product of a decision between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his bitter rival, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to put aside their personal interests and work together for the good of the country.
It highlights changes to be implemented which are necessary to push the country out of ethnic rivalries, promote inclusivity, improve devolution and lower corruption, among other issues.
While this definition paints a beautiful picture of a nation whose opposing forces are finally coming together, public opinion about it is split. For instance, when it comes to the role the youth play and how the document will impact them.
Included in the report, are youth targeted proposals such as a seven-year tax break and establishment of business incubation centers to provide business advisory services, which includes access to capital and government contracts, to businesses initiated by the youth.
Also proposed is the establishment of a youth commission to advise national and county governments on the design, implementation and evaluation of pro-youth policies, as well as ensure inclusivity of their perspective in planning and decision-making among others.
But, the proposals, while very positively framed, feel like recycled lines from former political candidates’ manifestos. The song of “youth empowerment” has been used as a tool to win elections for years, and is often quickly forgotten. We have been here before.
How exactly will the implementation process go? What about the young people that are being slapped with six figure demands by KRA before their businesses have broken even? What will be included in the government contracts in fine print?
Young people in Kenya, aged between 18-34 years, constitute about 30 percent of Kenya’s total population, and with a size that big, it’s not hard to see why so much emphasis is put on them to back the report.
With this in mind plus the other proposals that aim to bring back the prime minister seat and establishing pension funds for those holding office, the BBI begins to feel less like a step to further the country or the youth, and more like a push to benefit the two opposing parties.
Kenyan youth, especially with the recent exponential growth in corruption, have grown wary about the motives behind the policies the government drafts. With the BBI referendum set to cost Ksh. 14 billion, many wonder if once again, the government is spending money it does not have for something that does not need to happen right now.
Right now, the BBI only looks like a start to better policy changes that will benefit the youth and prove the government competent. But that is only if it is well implemented. Until then, we refuse to look at the document with rose coloured glasses.