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Business news: Lessons from KTN’s Agina

Aby Agina was chased out of town on Friday, May 24 – not literally of course. He started his weekend a bruised man. Agina is a business journalist at KTN. Intelligent, eloquent and unexcitable, Agina is the quintessential gentleman of the press. But Kenyans on twitter weren’t interested in all that.

Trouble began for Agina after he announced that he would host a KTN Business show to answer the question: “What role should the youth play in eradicating unemployment in Kenya?”

An urgent question. The night before, KTN had carried the sad – but now troublingly familiar – story of two university graduates in the Rift Valley doing menial work because they cannot find the jobs for which they were trained.

One of the graduates is a watchman at the high school from where he obtained a B+ in KCSE. The other is a young woman who goes around looking for odd jobs.

These stories break not only the hearts of the graduates concerned but also the millions of poor parents who have invested everything to educate their children.

And to underline the fact that the unemployment crisis in Kenya has little to do with the “unmarketable” courses offered – as some intellectual mongrels keep preaching to the nation – the man in the story has a BSC in Statistics.

So, why did the crowd on twitter descend on Agina with kicks and punches for announcing a discussion on such a crucial issue? The panel. That was the problem.

Agina and his producers had invited Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs CS Prof Margaret Kobia. Surely, Prof must know a thing or three about youth unemployment. That is her job in Cabinet. Moreover, she has taught thousands of youngsters at university. Prof Kobia is the chancellor of St Paul’s University in Limuru.

Just a day before Agina’s show, Prof had presided over the graduation ceremony of 360 youth trained in ICT and entrepreneurial skills under the Chandaria Youth Employment Initiative at University of Nairobi.

The second panellist was Chris Kirubi. Did anyone need to be persuaded about the relevance to the discussion of this globally renowned business mogul? Lakini, what do people want? Humble man who rose from grass to grace. If you do not know CK, then you are one of the problems the government must solve right away, or the Big Four Agenda is in danger.

Finally, there was James Mworia. Another big name in business. Youthful CEO of Centum Group.

But KoT rejected the panel in toto. The posts were furious. “You want to talk about youth without even one youth panel member? Aii”, Lewai protested.

Doug Odhiambo: “Your panel is irrelevant.”

Everlyn Mung’au: “None of the people featured have any answers.”

Mark Orango: “You are looking for ancestors to ask questions regarding youth unemployment…..all they (ancestors) will say is that they have “youths’ interest at heart”.

#TheEyeWitness: “High time the govt stops viewing an unemployed Kenyan youth as a problem or a cost to the state. The blame squarely falls on the govt’s shoulders whose failure to efficiently allocate resources and put all the factors of production to good use has created the unemployment menace.”

Allegations of shady deals against CK flew. And he hit back.

Ignatius naMema: “Chris Kirubi return the money looted from uchumi …the youth will get employment”

Chris Kirubi: “Don’t condemn what you don’t know! Ask for the details from the government. Read what courts said on Uchumi case please. How would you feel if someone made false allegations against you?

Inexplicably, our calm and collected Agina who had started it all remained quiet as the punches landed. Not a word.

He probably had never heard the saying, Nothing about us without us. How do you talk about the youth without bringing them on the table?

It has a lot to do with how most business news is constructed on Kenyan TV. Except for special segments like Daring Abroad or Women in Business on KTN, routine business reporting is about the so-called captains of industry.

The classic TV business news is about elite men in designer suits and exotic shoes talking NSE mumbo-jumbo. This in a country where agriculture employs at least 70 per cent of the population – and it is not chic agribusiness, no, planting and harvesting waru, maize and beans, etcetera.

Most new jobs in Kenya are not created by the Kirubis and Mworias. Or by the government Prof Kobia serves in. They are in the so-called informal sector (jua kali, M-Pesa shops, pubs, selling goats in Mogotio, dogs and cats in Lubao (Kakamega), mama mboga, food at Kibandaski, fishing).

But rarely do these activities make it to regular business news headlines, particularly TV. Nor might those involved be invited to discuss how to create jobs. That is too complicated for them. It is the preserve of men and women of business class.

The Observer wishes gentleman of the press Aby Agina quick recovery. His assault has important lessons for business news producers, editors and reporters.

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