For Youth, By Youth: Creating Jobs, Sustainability and A Future Vision for Kenya
Friday, January 23, 2015
Simeon Ogonda’s vision for Kenyan youth is ambitious. He wants to transform young people from job seekers into job creators who build and support sustainable and transparent enterprises. “My vision is to bring up more young people who can develop their own businesses, work hard, and trust that so long as they keep their passion alive, they will not fail in what they’re doing,” he said.
Ogonda, 26, is the founder of Enterprise Education-4-Change (Ee4C), a skills-building program that teaches undergraduate university students in Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya, business development and management. This training ensures that they are better equipped to take leadership roles at community-based organizations, including agricultural ventures and social enterprises, or offer guidance to groups of women with a business plan, for example.
It also trains youth to serve as watchdogs for corruption from lenders, grantmakers, government officials, and even business leaders, who all too often disappear with part of an organization’s budget in their pockets. The watchdog role is one that university students relish, as they get a chance to help improve the sustainability and transparency of community-based organizations, as well as restore trust in the public sector.
To ensure that local business leaders respect student leadership, Ogonda has established working relationships with local ward administrators in the Kenyan government. These administrators not only report to the Kisumu county assembly, which has a serious stake in community development, but they are also in charge of disbursing grants and loans to local businesses. Simply put: If managers at community-based organizations don’t play with Ee4c’s business development program, the government won’t pay.
“Ee4c takes students through training on ethical management of business, networking, and grassroots democracy,” Ogonda said. “They learn how to both handle members of community-based organizations, work with them, and also understand that money is connected to grants and loans from the government—it should be used well, to promote their ventures.”
After their training on campus, students are matched with community-based organizations no more than an hour from campus. Students make trips to these organizations three times each week. Along the way, students also play a leading role in running local think tanks for the rural public, most of whom are semi-literate, a model which Ogonda piloted last year in Cleveland, Ohio, during a six-month fellowship with the U.S. State Department. In six months, students are assessed based on their skills development, leadership and impact.