To all the youth participating,
To our distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon to you all.

Let me begin by saying how pleased I am to join you in this virtual event to celebrate the International Youth Day. This is a day that is dedicated to young people from across the world.

But today I would like to take this opportunity to focus on the great talent and indeed the potential of our Kenyan youth. And today I also wish to rededicate my efforts to scale up our capacity to harness that potential and to address the unique challenges that our young people are facing today.

Today’s event has been preceded by a full week of youth centered activities, which have concentrated and connected young people from across the country to celebrate talent and innovation, provide community service but also to engage in responsibility programmes.

Indeed, I urge all of you today to hopefully integrate what you have learnt during the course of last week into your daily lives. And I believe this will enable you to become engaged and also productive members of our society.

The theme of this year’s International Youth Day, “Youth Engagement for Global Action”, rightly recognizes the centrality of young people in shaping our present and future world. The sheer size of the youth population makes young people across the globe a powerful force of change and transformation.

The world today has 1.2 billion people aged between 15 and 24 years, this is the largest youth generation in history. Nineteen (19) percent of these young people are in Africa, a proportion that is expected to double by 2030. This represents a powerful and formidable current as well as future global workforce. The skills, the attitudes, and aspirations they bring into the workforce will, without doubt, determine the future of our planet.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The youth are a vast reservoir of energy, creativity, boldness and innovation, and are therefore, as I have said always, our most valuable national resource. If they are provided with the right education, skills and opportunities to engage, they could become a powerful engine to accelerate economic growth as well as trigger social change.

Indeed, with the right orientation, they could enable the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) much faster than envisaged; and enable the world to tackle major global challenges such as climate change, to name but one.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is an African saying that is worth noting during this occasion. It wisely reminds us that “when the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind”.

In this context, a key priority of my Administration is to nurture an empowered youth and to ensure that every young person has deep roots and they can withstand challenges as well as seize opportunities they encounter today and in the future.

Towards this end we, as a Government, have:

(i) Invested heavily in education and training to build the skills that young people need to lead productive lives. Achieving 100 percent transition to secondary school means that our young people can now comfortably expect to complete 12 years of education. This will give them the strong foundations for further training and productive employment and enable them to make useful contributions to society.
(ii) We have expanded and reformed technical and vocational education and training to make it more relevant and linked to the world of work. The 152 Youth Empowerment Centres, which are spread across the country provide a ‘One Stop Shop’ for youth focused services including access to ICT services, entrepreneurship training, guidance as well as counselling.

(iii) We have provided technical and financial assistance for our young entrepreneurs. In the last twelve months, for example, the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) disbursed a total of Ksh.473 million to 94,680 youth across the country. Other affirmative action funds provided bursaries and financial grants to support value addition initiatives as well as training.

(iv) We have strengthened platforms for accessing jobs. These include the expanded Internship Programmes, which provide an important link for youth to transition from school to work. The Ajira programme, for example, is designed to empower over one million young Kenyans to access digital job opportunities, MSME programmes providing training and financial support as well as our Studio Mashinani which we have put together to harness talent in the creative sectors.

Youth engagement means more than young people having a seat at the table or being beneficiaries of youth programmes. It also requires us, Ladies and Gentlemen, to support the youth to be co-creators. The amazing creativity and resilience of our youth has provided compelling evidence that when the youth are purposefully engaged, they become powerful change agents.
Let me just highlight a few examples of how engaged youth can influence global and national action plans. As a powerful voice on global issues, last September, during the Climate Change Summit, four million young people from all corners of our globe organized demonstrations demanding urgent and ambitious action on the climate change crisis.
The powerful voices of young people made the argument for urgent climate action that was compelling and meaningful. Indeed, this marked a turning point in the climate change debate.
As innovators, the youth have shown that they have powerful potential particularly at a time when the world is facing a formidable challenge. We are, Ladies and Gentlemen, celebrating the International Youth Day 2020 under the cloud of Covid-19. But in spite of this challenge, the young people continue to stand out as a beacon of hope for a brighter tomorrow.
The youth in Kenya have seized the opportunities in the Covid-19 crisis to innovate. Their innovations range from simple but practical interventions, such as setting up handwashing stations; to complex and pathbreaking innovations, such as manufacturing hospital beds and homegrown ventilators to help treat patients affected by the Coronavirus.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we will celebrate the winners of the Fursa versus Virus Challenge. This is an initiative by the National Youth Council to facilitate and promote innovative responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
May I, at this juncture, take this opportunity to thank the Kenya Pipeline Corporation, Royal Media Services and Huawei Technologies Kenya Limited for partnering with us to ensure that the Fursa versus Virus Challenge was a success.
We are particularly grateful to Huawei Technologies Kenya for covering internet costs for the entire Fursa versus Virus Challenge period as well as for providing 47 tablets and three (3) laptops for the winners.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me at this point highlight one of the many exciting ideas that have emerged from of this challenge; notably the Plant Signal, which addresses a key agriculture problem.
Plant Signal is a free, offline, interactive, smartphone app to give farmers real time diagnosis of the pest or disease that affect their crop. This app makes a recommendation on which agrochemicals to apply and can set up a live chat for our farmers with remote agricultural extension officers. It can also provide an e-Commerce platform to buy farm inputs. I am sure you will all agree with me, Ladies and Gentlemen, that this is, unquestionably, a powerful as well as a transformative tool.
Every day, our Kenyan youth surprise us with ideas and innovations in every field. Some of these have received international recognition such as Angaza Elimu, Tambua and PGRC 360 Recycle.

Angaza Elimu is an edtech social enterprise, primed to transform education across the entire African continent by addressing the problem of inefficient classrooms and inadequate educational materials.

Tambua is a mobile phone app that helps patients verify the authenticity of pharmaceutical products. This protects citizens from purchasing counterfeit drugs.

PGRC 360 Recycle converts plastic, glass and rubber waste from dumpsites to make composite material that can be used in furniture designing, slabbing and curbing of footpaths.
These and similar ideas and innovations provide simple, accessible, and affordable home-grown solutions to problems ordinary Kenyans face. And we need to nurture this unique talent of our youth. So towards that end, I do today direct the Department of Youth to immediately work with the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation to undertake a comprehensive inventory of these innovators, support them to fully develop the innovations and facilitate them, in some instances, to mass production and enterprise development, and indeed most importantly to assist them in protecting their intellectual property.

In addition to engaging as pressure groups and innovators, youth engagement requires that they also take up leadership roles. To enable them to train for leadership to grow as leaders, at the beginning of this year I did appoint a number of young people as Chief Administrative Secretaries to assist and also learn alongside their older Cabinet colleagues. I intend to appoint a few more to continue to encourage and to show our young people that they have a place in the leadership of this country.

Further we are strengthening the voice of youth through the transformation of the National Youth Council into a platform, where the Kenyan youth can meaningfully and actively participate in the economic and governance processes of our country.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me conclude by citing one young person who recently reminded all of us, that young people should not be a side dish but rather the main dish. I, personally, subscribe to that view, and that is why I have positioned the youth agenda as a central pillar in my Administration.

I wish you all a very happy International Youth Day. I wish you every success in all your endeavours and I continue to encourage you take up your role as change makers and transformers not only of our country but indeed of our planet. May God bless you all. Mungu awabariki nyote. Asanteni sana.

#IYD2020KE #YouthDay #InternationalYouthDay


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