By Nyokabi Njuguna, Kenya

The journey to the A.U pre-summit meetings this January 2017 has been a passionate one for a young African woman representing a continent that is diverse, innovative, and full of young people. The responsibility to represent Kenya has been humbling because majorities of my fellow youth rarely have such an opportunity to be heard on this continental platform. 

This year’s theme, ‘harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth’ was especially interesting to me because of how little our governments actually allocate to investments specifically for young people. This connects directly with the conversations surrounding young people and the demographic dividend. The demographic dividend refers to benefits that can arise when a country’s working age population has less dependents to care, and governments intentionally invest in education, health, job creation, and governance sectors.

The African Union roadmap, which was generated as a response to the assembly’s decision to have this year’s theme focus on demographic dividend and investment in youth is a multi stakeholder, consultative and transformative document, provides the path the countries on the African continent need to take to transform the youth bulge into a demographic dividend. However, once I went through the road map I realized that the key actions and deliverables were ideal, but majority of them did not have clear timelines which made me question the level of accountability of our member countries to the African Union. 

On querying one of the high level delegates who had been part of the consultative meetings on the low level of accountability in the document, I was sadly shut down with the ‘you do not understand the processes surrounding the generation of the themes and documents’ answer. I found myself obsessing over these processes that are always used to shut down questions that arise when reading through documents such as the A.U roadmap. Processes are linked actions that convert inputs into outputs by utilizing available resources. Going by the spirit of the definition, aren’t processes supposed to be improved on through lessons learnt? If the processes of generating important documents such as the A.U roadmap are truly consultative, shouldn’t there have been one or two high level delegates who should have pointed out the importance of the S.M.A.R.T approach in ensuring that there are proper accountability mechanisms for the implementation of the key deliverables and goals? Aren’t processes that affect millions of young people supposed to provide an environment that is conducive towards meaningful youth engagement and inclusion especially in a year when the focus is on the youth? Aren’t processes supposed to be clear enough for a young man or woman on this continent to understand?

These questions I believe can start a discussion on the current processes that are used at the African Union to engage the whole continent, not just those who matter enough to be in the space and especially for young people such as myself who are somewhat involved in the set processes yet feel so isolated. I was especially offended when the youth consultation meeting deemed it fit to allocate just under 45 minutes for the young people such as myself to come up with 2 recommendations on four thematic areas for a document that we had just received that morning and had not analyzed thoroughly.  If these are the processes that were set up by individuals who at the time felt that they will help achieve the continent’s goals, then it is time for these processes to be challenged, reinvented and rebuilt.

Future generations may question what my role as a youth representative was and one of the things that is on top of my list is to make sure that these processes are reinvented to ensure that future generations get better answers to questions that affect them from institutions such as the African Union.  I am motivated to research and analyze what these processes are and how they have become barriers rather than enablers of real and meaningful youth engagement; I see this as a first step in making the necessary and long overdue changes. I believe that this will help in ensuring that young people do not feel that they are put in a position where they feel like they are being batted for public relations purposes but should feel that their voice and needs are truly considered in determining what the future of the African continent will be for them. 

About Nyokabi

Nyokabi Njuguna is the founder and executive director of Impacting Youth Trust and is a youth development specialist who has actively been advocating for the involvement and recognition of the youth in the overall long term development of Kenya with her focus being on adolescents. She is also the Siemens Stiftung-Germany’s Kenya project consultant for the Experimento project that encourages the practical teaching of S.T.E.M in schools in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. She has a Masters in international Co-operation and Development, a bachelor in international business administration with a concentration in management and an advanced diploma in human resource management. Additionally, she has a certificate in information technology and is a basic self-taught programmer who mentors university graduates on the correlation between technology and development. She has over six years’ experience working in development-orientated sectors such as the micro-finance, real estate and development of human capital areas where she has gained first-hand experience in the importance of youth empowerment and overall investment in the low income strata of the economy.  She strongly believes in the holistic provision of S.R.H.R services to adolescents in Kenya. Nyokabi has been nominated as one of the young people making a difference in Nairobi by Awesome Foundation, has participated in the Al Jazeera Canvas hackathon in Doha, has participated in the New York University-Abu Dhabi hackathon for social good as a mentor, participated in the i*Hub summer data jam as a mentor, is a YALI East Africa Leadership centre fellow, DO School Africa Education challenge fellow and was a finalist in the 2016 Brightest Young Minds-Africa summit. She has volunteered as a mentor with the A*Sistem S.T.E.M young girls project in Nigeria and the Queen’s young leaders program.