In 2015, Club Madrid, an organization that brings together former presidents and prime ministers of democratic states, identified the exclusion of young people from the economy as one of the main drivers of violent extremism around the world.
They said that “systematic exclusion creates injustice and unfair treatment (and) can produce a toxic mix that allows violent extremism to flourish … political leaders everywhere have a duty to represent all their citizens, to empower women and youth and to ensure that women, the group and the community have equal access to economic development and other opportunities.
Whether poverty, unemployment and other manifestations of economic exclusion and marginalization directly fuel violent extremism has been the subject of debate. It is not disputed, however, that the exclusion of individuals and groups from the economy and society tends to entrench real and perceived inequality and inequity.
A World Bank study of conflicts and uprisings in the Arab world reinforces the view that while these two factors alone cannot always trigger extremist violence, their relationship to ethnic, sectarian grievances, economic and religious issues is important, especially when those who feel marginalized resort to violence. .
“The risks of having such extreme views are higher among young people, those who struggle in life, have limited freedom to make decisions about their lives and are willing to sacrifice their lives for an idea,” he concluded. ‘study. The result is that real or perceived marginalization among individuals and groups can exacerbate underlying tensions, leading to insecurity and instability. Hence the need for economic inclusion.
An inclusive economy is an economy where everyone can access the opportunities available to improve their lives. Peace, stability and democracy can only be achieved if all citizens feel included in the economy and society of their country. This brings us to the question of the economic empowerment of young people. Young people constitute the majority of the population, which makes them highly vulnerable to social inequalities resulting from unequal and inequitable allocation and distribution of resources.
The lifestyle choices young people make are influenced to a large extent by the prevailing social and economic context. Lack of access to decent opportunities to improve their general well-being severely limits their ability to play their rightful role in society. A growing population of young people with limited economic opportunities is vulnerable to political and ideological manipulation, thus posing a security threat.
It should be noted that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report attempts to provide a mechanism to combat the economic exclusion of young people. While alluding to “the continuing legacy of the marginalization of certain groups and areas”, it specifically suggests ways to reduce the inequalities and inequalities affecting young people.
The main ones are measures which help young people to set up and develop businesses. Some of the proposed reforms include effective business registration, exemption from paying income tax for a period of seven years, the establishment of business incubation centers in each neighborhood, and prompt payment for goods. and services provided by micro and small enterprises.
Despite various policy and institutional reforms aimed at promoting young people in business like the Youth Enterprise Fund, Ajira and others, young people continue to face many obstacles when trying to start business enterprises.
Tax and other incentives will encourage young people to be entrepreneurs by reducing the risk and cost of starting a business while maintaining positive cash flow, a key factor in the survival of the business. Young SMEs will be empowered to do more business with government at the national and county level without fear of excessive delays in paying bills.
The BBI also recommends a four-year grace period for the repayment of loans granted to students in higher education institutions by the Higher Education Loans Board. The loans will also be free of interest until the beneficiary begins to receive income.
Such positive economic measures will not only encourage more young people to go into business, but will also protect them from the vagaries of unemployment, such as servicing student loans while “tarmaking”.
With access to financial support, young people are likely to be empowered and therefore more resistant to the negative ideological influences often blamed for recurrent political violence and insecurity in Kenya.
Young Kenyans continue to excel in digital innovation, clear proof that with the right support, they can be transformative economic agents. In addition, an increasingly shrinking pool of idle youth is reducing the space for radicalization and recruitment into violence.
However, the participation of young people in the BBI process is essential to the achievement of these progressive steps. Political goodwill across the divide is also crucial to ensure that our young people are not left behind.
This discussion should be echoed at the county level where much work is underway to tackle insecurity and prevent violent extremism. Local initiatives aimed at building the resilience of communities must be aligned with the broader goal of economic empowerment of young people, women and other marginalized groups.
Beyond economic empowerment, other challenges affecting young people, including access to quality health care, education, training and mentoring, should also be mainstreamed on the BBI agenda. .
While the overarching goal of the BBI process is to end Kenya’s eternal cycle of electoral violence, the quest for political stability cannot be achieved without an inclusive economy and society. Such a balance is crucial for lasting prosperity for all, and even more so for our young men and women.
Mr. Mwachinga is a lawyer and partner at Viva Africa Consulting LLP. [email protected]