Investments in young people’s full participation in development efforts can spur economic growth, democracy, and prosperity. To support the Government of Kenya’s youth development agenda, the United States, through the USAID Empowered Youth project, is investing $15 million dollars to reach at least 300,000 Kenyan youth with employability skills between 2021 through 2026.
“Youth voices and actions matter. USAID youth policy and programming acknowledges that young people are critical to development today and in the future. We partner with and offer youth the necessary skills and tools to create and increase employment,” said Mark Meassick, USAID Kenya and East Africa Mission Director.
The project will be implemented by Michigan State University in partnership with Kenya’s Egerton University and United States International University-Africa, the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) and the National Youth Bunge Association, with the aim of increasing youth economic prospects and youth engagement.
“We often see youth, especially in Africa, as lacking something instead of being great partners who can lead transformation themselves,” said Leapetswe Malete, project director and associate professor in the MSU Department of Kinesiology. “We need to change this way of thinking about youth’s role in society. If we do that in Kenya, we are likely to have an impact in the region and across the continent on how to engage youth effectively as development partners.”
Kenyan youth will be trained on life skills and have learning experiences. And, $2.5 million in small grants will kickstart innovative youth businesses that can empower young people to work together to build the local economy and reduce youth unemployment.
“MSU has a long legacy of global engagement, and that means we are focused on building the livelihoods of youth not only here on our campus but around the globe,” said President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “By helping young people in Kenya achieve their aspirations, the USAID Empowered Youth project will support our mission of applying skills in ways that transform communities, and ultimately help create a more sustainable, prosperous world for all.”
The project will build on previous work funded by USAID and leverage on Kenya’s youth bunge (parliament in Swahili) – a unified network of local youth-led organizations – and strengthen collaboration with county governments, nonprofit groups, private sector partners, and Kenyan institutions of higher education. In addition, the project will work closely with technical vocational education and training institutions to offer new skill development workshops and internships or apprenticeships in industries such as agribusiness and information technology.
During the first year, USAID Empowered Youth will be implemented in Isiolo, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nakuru, Kiambu, and Mombasa counties, and later expanded to 20 additional counties. The project will progressively transfer responsibility to local champions and systems, increase county government and private sector buy-in, and participation in supporting youth initiatives.