By the time you read this, leaders of Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan will be getting ready to meet in Kigali with their host at another of a series of meeting aimed at fast tracking a number of EAC projects.
As the year ebbs to a close, we all look forward to the promises we have heard from our leaders. One of the key items on their agenda has been the single visa and the use of IDs to cross regional borders. If all goes according to plan, this should be in effect by the first day of January 2014.
We have heard so much about the infrastructure projects being planned. Oil refineries, pipelines from Mombasa to Bujumbura, faster and modern gauge railways to connect Kigali to Nairobi and multiple-lane highways all aimed at moving goods and people much faster than ever before.
Energy is also always on the table. Increasing energy generation is always part of any development oriented speech. One of the elephants in the room that is sometimes pointed at, but without the courage to look it in the eye, remains the issue of youth unemployment.
East Africa has a very young population, most of it without work, yet educated. In the past, we were told that, education is the key. Now with universal education things seem to have turned out a little different. We have thousands who have been to primary, secondary and even university but cannot find or even create jobs.
That our education systems are obsolete is as obvious as Shaquille O’Neal at a midget convention. The colonialists created a system to train clerks to take over the administrative roles that they held. No room for creativity or critical thinking was planned for with that education system.
Instead of changing this education system we have largely concentrated on increasing access to this same kind of education or a watered down version of the same. How do we plan for the growing number of people who are now at the age where they are supposed to be most productive yet they are idle?
The answer to that question lies in a few remedies that include, but are not limited to, revamping the education system and industrialisation. We need to stop talking about how many children are in school and instead look at what they leave with after school.
If we are talking of infrastructure, roads and railways are very obvious? That is why leaders in developed worlds will not go in public to talk about or commission a road. We should be hearing more about industries that create jobs, wealth and products that can be consumed and exported. I feel ashamed when I see some of our leaders commissioning shopping malls!
Yes we have heard of money for youth entrepreneurs but let’s face it, much of that is swindled by those handling it. Ask the Kenyans about Kazi kwa vijana or Ugandans about the youth fund. That none of those who swindle this money are in jail is a sign that we are still looking at this as though it is a laughing matter.
Companies and other institutions need to support the youth by opening up opportunities not just for jobs but internship. Why do you have to insist on someone having 10 years experience even when you know the field he is applying to join is still very new?
I also think it is very selfish to keep pushing the retirement age upwards yet the truth is we have a bigger problem at the bottom. Why should a 70-year-old stick to a job that a 30 year old can do faster and better?
And can someone please tell our youth that generally speaking they lose more money from sports betting than they make. Gambling businesses are designed for profits, not charity.
The job of turning our youth into a productive army to spur development is not only crucial but very urgent. The Chinese can build for us all the roads we want but they will not help when youth unemployment time bomb explodes on us.
The youth should also stop listening to anyone who says they are leaders of tomorrow. Just look at population statistics and you will know that their time is today.