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Hustler narrative no cure for youth, jobs crisis

By , People Daily Digital
Tuesday, August 17th, 2021 00:00 | 2 mins read
President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) and ODM leader Raila Odinga display BBI document when they toured Kisii County to popularise the document. Photo/PD/File

The Court of Appeal will this Friday deliver its judgement on the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2020, popularly known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) case.

Kenyans eagerly await determination of the case, after a landmark five-judge bench High Court ruling rocked the nation by declaring the proposed amendments to the Constitution through the BBI null and void.

The ruling clamped the three arms of government and triggered a political tempest with less than a year to the 2022 General Election.

Political protagonists have already embarked on campaigns, laced with a heady concoction of agenda and propaganda.

As the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) battles electoral justice and credibility issues, politicians angling for succession have zeroed in on three critical factors in the forthcoming poll – the economy, ethnicity and the youth.

A common phrase emerging from this political, social and economic imbroglio is the “hustler nation”.

This simplistic analogy and its “bottoms up approach” to the critical issues facing citizens, has generated some populistic support, spirited debate, mirth and rejoinders from opponents in equal measure.

Yet for its fickle approach in seeking a solution to the triple issues of disease, poverty and ignorance that have dogged wananchi since independence and which past and present leaders have failed to solve, the hustler narrative has also opened a Pandora’s box.

It highlights dominant factors to determine the outcome of next year’s presidential election.

Despite the shady connotations of the phrase, hustlers exist in all ethnic communities.

However, proponents of the hustler narrative may rue their derisive categorisation of political adversaries as ethnic kingpins.

Jua kali, mama mboga, boda boda and unemployed youth may be casually branded hustlers in the prevailing Kenyan lexicon, but their equally fickle loyalty to the narrative may not be as hustler-compliant as that of their ethnic identities at the ballot box. 

Nor would they have a ravenous appetite for a “socio-economic revolution” to destabilise their dire status quo solely because of political affiliation.

Kenya’ youth population comprises 10 million people, more than 10 per cent of all Kenyans.

The proportion of youth age 18-34 constitutes 25 per cent and those below 15 years make up 43 per cent.

The power of the youth vote in the 2022 elections will certainly be quite significant.

Therefore, the youth population needs to be at the core of the efforts and campaign agenda of presidential candidates.

They must leverage opportunities for the youth if they expect to reap a demographic dividend at the ballot.

This means developing human capital and resources, equitable generation and provision of decent jobs to improve poor living standards in marginalised, underdeveloped urban informal settlements and rural areas.

‘Handshake’ advocates have an excellent opportunity to roll back the hustler narrative.

They can make President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy Big Four agenda a major pillar of their campaign and manifesto, priming the youth to rejuvenate national socio-economic development. 

A rapid expansion of the National Youth Service (NYS) and revival of the President’s 2013 Youth Empowerment Programme (YEP) initiated in 253 out of 290 constituencies would be a game changer in the political succession matrix.

YEP made remarkable impact in up-scaling living conditions in disadvantaged regions and poor urban neighbourhoods, engaging 236,250 community youth across all 47 counties but was halted by the 2018 NYS scandal.

Under YEP, Sh9 billion was paid to and the youth saved Sh3.48 billion in 688 saccos, while 10,000 women earned Sh800 million through Huduma kitchens. [email protected]

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