In November 2019, Kenya hosted the 25th International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) which was first held in Cairo in 1994. The aim of the conference was to assess the achievements made by the 179 governments represented in advancing people’s rights and choices with particular focus on: empowerment of women; reduction of infant and child mortality to a rate below 35 per 1000 live births and under-five mortality rate below 45 per 1,000; eradication of gender-based violence and any abuses of women rights including female genital mutilation (FGM); reduction of maternal mortality disparities within countries and between geographical regions, socio-economic and ethnic groups; and improvement of gender equality and access to reproductive and sexual health services including family planning.
In the recently released preliminary 2019 Population Census results, the Kenyan population is estimated at 47.6 million, which is an increase from 28.7 million in 1999. The rapid growth in population is attributed to decline in mortality rates. Under-five mortality rate has reduced to 52 deaths per 1000 live births from 115 in 2003. Infant mortality has also reduced to 39 deaths per 1000 live births from 77 per cent in the same period. Further, family planning has been embraced, as evidenced by contraceptive prevalence rate of 53 per cent and with a target of attaining 66 per cent by 2022.
Despite the growth in population, the growth rate has reduced from 2.9 per cent to an estimated 2.2 per cent. The decline in population growth rate is attributed to declining fertility rate of average number of births per woman at 3.9 children in 2019 compared to 5.4 in 1994. Nevertheless, it is still above the average global level of 2.4 children.
The 2019 census shows that women constitute 51 per cent of the total population, and this has remained the same since 1999. The youth population has accounted for over 32 per cent of the total population since the 1999 census. This offers the country an opportunity to realize her development agenda including the population dividend.
The government has put in place policy frameworks and initiatives towards enhancing education and training. The national government in collaboration with the counties has embarked on revitalizing vocational and technical training to impart labour and entrepreneurial skills among the youth. The number of public vocational training centres increased by 26.6 per cent in 2018. Moreover, the number of women enrolling in the programmes also increased by 94 per cent in public technical institutions and significantly across other levels of learning. Other achievements include expansion of pre-primary education, which is one of the devolved functions; implementation of free primary, free day secondary education, provision of enhanced capitation grants for learners with special needs and commitment to 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary education. While significant progress has been made with basic education there is more to be done towards enhancing quality of education at all levels, expanding higher education and ensuring strong link with industry.
In Kenya, there has been a consistent call for development of skills that are relevant skills for the labour market. This has led to recent efforts to review the school curriculum. The new curriculum integrates technology in teaching and learning and focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics to impart relevant skills among the youth. Other education pathways that could bolster the country’s efforts towards attaining population dividend include focus on sports, arts and humanities, and social sciences.
Some of the initiatives being targeted to reap the youth dividend include nurturing of a value-driven, moral, ethical generation of patriotic youth with a heart for volunteerism and transformative leadership; and harnessing youth talent, creativity and innovation for wealth creation.
In addressing the challenges of youth unemployment, various interventions have been initiated. The government is continuously strengthening internship programmes; has established formal apprenticeship programmes; and promoted on-job training opportunities. Some counties have initiated youth service programmes to offer labour and entrepreneurial skills to the youth. This will not only increase productivity among the youth but also equip them with entrepreneurial skills and create more jobs. The ripple effect will transform the economy to a knowledge and technology-based economy as envisioned in the Kenya Vision 2030. The youth’s voice in Kenya has also been enhanced through ratification of the African Youth Charter, development of the Kenya Youth Development Policy (2019), and establishment of the National Youth Council. An Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Policy was developed in 2015 after the review of the first Adolescent Reproductive Health and Development Policy in 2003. These initiatives aim to enhance youth involvement in social, economic, transformative leadership and political spheres of the development activities.
The government with support from non-state actors is also committed to eliminating female genital mutilation (FGM) by 2022 and all forms of gender-based violence by 2030 through addressing retrogressive practices and strengthening coordination interventions. The enactment of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Act of 2011 constitutes a comprehensive piece of legislation that established the Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board and sets out the offences and punishments for FGM.
In a nutshell, implementation of Kenya’s commitment to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action is on track given the significant strides it has made towards achieving the commitments.
By Dr Eldah Onsomu and Mr Lawrence Njoroge, KIPPRA