YTJN Statement Of Solidarity With Kenyan Youth Against The Finance Bill 2024

KAMPALA, UGANDA (25th June 2024) - The Youth for Tax Justice Networks (YTJN) stands in solidarity with the youth and citizens of Kenya in opposing the Finance Bill 2024. This bill threatens to undermine the principles of pro-poor sustainable development, democracy, and free enterprise essential for reducing poverty and creating opportunities for all.

Africa's youth population is the largest and fastest-growing in the world, presenting both significant challenges and opportunities. As this population increases, it is crucial to ask: Are our youth equipped with the necessary skills, education, livelihoods, and support systems to shape their own futures and those of their nations? The lack of participation, access, benefits, choices, and opportunities can weaken the sense of personal responsibility and determination that is vital for leveraging this human resource in the 21st century.  

YTJN joins the people of Kenya in rejecting the Finance Bill 2024, recognizing it as manipulative and self-serving. This bill will raise the cost of basic products, while the additional revenue will fail to address critical public services such as health, education, and employment. For example, the proposed "eco levy" on manufactured goods, including sanitary towels, jeopardizes universal access to menstrual hygiene products, a basic human right. Recognizing sanitary pads and tampons as necessary items, rather than luxury goods, could alleviate financial burdens on women and girls.

The government's need to raise $2.7 billion in additional taxes due to extended borrowing will disproportionately impact the youth, who form the majority of the workforce. This tax burden will increase the cost of living and exacerbate poverty and unemployment. Contradictory statistics from various organizations indicate that between 65-80% of Kenyan youth are unemployed, with only a small fraction possessing post-secondary qualifications. Many youths are forced into informal employment, struggling to make a living despite having an education. 

In pursuit of creditor satisfaction, the Kenyan government overlooks the dire consequences of increased taxes on basic goods. Rather than increasing taxes, the government should focus on creating additional income opportunities for the youth. The existing disparity between the cost of living and the minimal wages paid to Kenyan youth must be addressed. Policies should aim to reduce inflation risks, create employment, and provide a viable solution to the rising cost of living.

YTJN condemns all forms of violence and extra-judicial killings marred by the protests and we call upon the government of Kenya to come to a peaceful resolution of the issues raised with the citizenry. Economic rights are best met through policies that create opportunities, not by moderating income distribution through taxation alone. Stifling free expression and blocking internet access further harm the youth, who rely on these platforms for education, business, and social connections. The blockade on internet access must be reversed immediately to restore their livelihoods and right to information.

YTJN calls for a policy shift that prioritizes economic opportunities for the youth, ensuring they have the resources and support needed to succeed. We stand united with the youth and citizens of Kenya in demanding justice, opportunity, and fair treatment.

Together, we can build a future where the youth are empowered to shape their destinies and contribute meaningfully to their nation's development.