While Kenya has made significant political, structural and economic reforms to drive economic growth, social development and political gains, there are a couple of key challenges which will affect the country’s future growth, including especially peace and security, economic opportunity, corruption and health care. Peace and security challenges have slowed down the nation’s economic development and growth. Some of the key issues in security include violent extremism (terrorism and radicalization); conflicts over natural resources; and political conflicts (associated with elections, ethnicity and devolution). The nation faces challenges from economic and social inequalities, marginalization, high youth unemployment, unsettled clashes over land and resource ownership, ethnic tensions related to political interests, and spillovers from conflicts in neighboring South Sudan and Somalia. A number of these conflict triggers are longstanding while others are newly emerging. These tensions easily escalate into violence and conflict.In addition, a large population of unemployed youth in poverty-stricken slum areas of the major cities and the persistent grievances of the coastal areas have been fertile grounds for recruitment by extremists groups, leading to real fears of home grown terrorism.
While Kenya has made significant progress in increasing the percentage of its middle class population, and has reduced poverty levels, much still needs to be done. Not only has progress on economic improvement been uneven across the country, the urban poverty rate remains statistically unchanged, and in fact, the absolute number of urban poor has increased from 2.3 million to 3.8 million due to high population growth. For some parts of the country, lack of reliable access to basic services can have long-term consequences, particularly in building human capital, if nothing is done. Clearly, attention needs to be paid to addressing economic opportunity in rural areas, and areas near porous borders in which there is little public support.
Unfortunately, corruption is endemic to the way of life in Kenya. The effect has been great inequalities both in access of services from government offices as well as opportunities for investment with many local and foreign firms discouraged and forced to close business. Misappropriation of public funds compromises the quality of service available to the public. Corruption affects key sectors like healthcare, education and infrastructure resulting in poor living conditions.
While access to quality health care is a constitutional right, millions of Kenyans cannot afford to pay for health services at public or private clinics. Even given public health insurance, only 20% of Kenyans have access to some sort of medical insurance, leaving as many as 35 million Kenyans excluded from quality health care coverage. Preventable diseases remain a serious issue in Kenya, particularly malaria (with an estimated 6.7 million new cases each year) and HIV(at least 1.6 million people were living with HIV in Kenya in 2016 with just 65% on antiretroviral treatment. One reason is a shortage of healthcare professionals. Kenya has only one nurse for every 1,000 people, according to a 2014 study, and they’re poorly distributed throughout the country, leading to low-quality treatment in remote regions.
This program seeks to engage U.S. government funded exchange program alumni topromotepeace and security, economic empowerment, health, and rule of law including combating corruption, through a speaker series, community service projects, and mentorship programs.
The program will also strengthen county alumni chapters. The project calls on alumni to join the speaker series and develop mentorship programs in locations where the Embassy has American Spaces – Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa, Lamu and Kisumu. The project will also launch a competition among U.S. government alumni to carry out community service projects.