Amidst the global onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, former President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya introduced the Kazi Mtaani program as a strategic response to mitigate the economic challenges brought about by quarantine restrictions. The program, launched with the goal of providing a financial cushion for Kenyans during trying times, proved to be impactful, engaging over 280,000 youths who were gainfully employed and compensated for their efforts.
However, following his inauguration on September 13, President William Ruto made a significant policy shift, discontinuing the Kazi Mtaani program and replacing it with a Tree Planting initiative. This decision has since stirred controversy and attracted criticism, with various leaders advocating for the reinstatement of the original program.
Among those voicing their concerns is Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja, who recently appealed to President Ruto to reconsider and revive the Kazi Mtaani program. Sakaja highlighted the positive outcomes of the initiative, asserting that during its active period, the crime rate in the region had decreased by an impressive 47%. He emphasized the need for continued efforts to address youth unemployment and suggested alternative avenues, such as tree planting and construction projects, if the program were to be reintroduced in a modified form.
Governor Sakaja’s plea aligns with sentiments expressed by other leaders and activists, including Bunge la Wananchi’s Calvin Okoth Gaucho, who emphasized the program’s role in preventing youth engagement in criminal activities for survival.
Furthermore, political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi, back in October, urged President Ruto to carefully examine the reasons behind the introduction of programs like Kazi Mtaani and other subsidies by his predecessor, especially in light of their intended purpose to support economically vulnerable households.
Notably, the Kazi Mtaani program, in its initial phases, received substantial government funding, with Sh1.3 billion allocated for the first phase and subsequent phases budgeted at Sh2.4 billion and Sh5.6 billion, respectively. Youth participants were involved in a range of activities, including cleaning drainage lines, garbage collection, street cleaning, tree planting, and the rehabilitation of public facilities. The daily wages provided to each participant and their supervisors were Sh450 and Sh505, respectively, contributing not only to economic relief but also to community development efforts. The ongoing debate surrounding the fate of the Kazi Mtaani program underscores the significance of addressing youth unemployment and fostering sustainable initiatives for economic empowerment in Kenya.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world and by extension Kenya, the then president Uhuru Kenyatta introduced the Kazi Mtaani program.
During its launch, he said it would cushion Kenyans against the tough economic times that came with the quarantine restrictions. From the Kazi Mtaani program, over 280,000 youths were hired and paid. But after his inauguration on September 13, President William Ruto ended the program and instead changed it to a Tree planting initiative.
However, Ruto’s withdrawal from the programme has attracted backlash with leaders calling for its renewal.Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja joined those who are imploring the president to re-introduce the programme.
He said when the program was still active, insecurity had reduced by 47 per cent.
“When Kazi Mtaani was there even the crime rate had reduced. The crime rate had reduced by 47 per cent. And that is why we are seeking that the President bring it back,” Sakaja said. Sakaja spoke after he commissioned the Langata Water project in South C on Monday. “And even if it is not brought back like it was before, let us dive into the available jobs like tree planting and construction of houses,” he said.
He said Kenya’s work is to build businesses that will employ the youth. “This is why we appreciate the Affordable Housing program because our youth will get jobs, and our mothers will cook and bring food to the construction site,” Sakaja said.
In November, Bunge la Wananchi Calvin Okoth Gaucho said the program ought to be brought back as a youth had reverted to criminal activities for survival since its abolishment. “The cause of insecurity is that youth have no jobs. The government should give the youth jobs to keep them engaged. President William Ruto should invest in kazi kwa vijana,” Gaucho said.
Additionally, Political Analyst Mutahi Ngunyi had in October urged Ruto to look into why the program, and other subsidies, were introduced by his predecessor to cushion poor households. The government had allocated Sh1.3 billion for the first phase while Sh2.4 billion and Sh5.6 billion were to be used for the second and third phases respectively. The youth would show up to work to clean drainage lines, collect garbage, clean streets, grow trees and rehabilitate public facilities. On average, each youth earned a daily wage of Sh450 while their supervisors earned Sh505 daily.