The 2010 Kenyan constitution provides a fundamental right for every citizen to engage with the government on public governance processes. The enactment of the Public Finance Management Act of 2012 guarantees citizens the right to participate in developing county and national budgets every fiscal year. Every year, the budget cycle begins from August 30th as provided for in the PFM Act of 2012.

Young people’s participation in budget making process in Kenya has however been so minimal. This is attributed to the fact that most young people are not aware of the process and they do not the constitutionally provided avenues to engage.  The few young people who have had an opportunity to participate in this process do not participate meaningfully. This high level of ignorance and lack of information has been used to the advantage of selfish policy makers. As a result, young people’s issues have not been given priority during resource allocation.

There are many sexual and reproductive health challenges that can be addressed if young people participate and engage meaningfully during the budget making process. Young people suffer from STIs, new HIV infections, teen pregnancy and unsafe abortion because they lack access to quality and affordable sexual reproductive health and rights services. At policy level, Kenya has the Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health & Rights policy of 2015 which requires county governments to implement. Full implementation of the ASRHR policy requires county governments to set aside resources every fiscal year.

During the budget making cycle, various windows exist for young people to participate and submit their contributions to the county governments. The PFM Act provides for county governments  departments to engage the public and undertake consultations with all stakeholders as they prepare the County Budget Review and Outlook Paper (CBROP) from September 1st to February 15th.Young people again have an opportunity to engage in public participation forums held in February before the February 28th to give their input in the development of the County Fiscal Strategy Paper (CFSP). The CFSP is a document which broadly outlines how the different sectors in the county government will share resources and what projects are proposed to be considered for financing.

A young person participation in a public participation forum in Nairobi County (2017)

By working closely with the elected leaders at the County Assembly, young people can engage individual Members of the County Assembly (MCA) to lobby and champion for resource allocation on youth issues. In May every year, the county assembly committee on budget is likely to hold public hearings on the budget. This is another prime opportunity for the youth and their leaders to allocate resources to address youth issues. Young people can engage through out the budget cycle by presenting memos and petitions to the most relevant public officer who is steering the budget making process at a given time.

By working with the Population Reference Bureau, CSA will provide technical assistance to young people across 22 counties to increase their participation in the budget making process. Most of these young people had already started to engage county leaders during the development of the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDP) which is a 5-year plan of how the county government plans to move forward with its development agenda. These young people sensitized strategic policy makers on Kenya’s demographic dividend and how they can ensure investments in the sectors of education, health, economy/jobs and promote good governance.

Kenya today has a very big population of young people. Devolution provides the best opportunity for these young people to engage directly with their policy makers and participate in public governance processes. It is only young people who hold the biggest potential to drive Kenya’s vision 2030 agenda.