Youth, the fulcrum to a nations development and prosperity need the access and opportunity to engage in entrepreneurial enterprises that will give them a footing that allows them to become productive citizens. Poverty and lack of access to information all too often lead youth to the vagaries of crime, and, or ethnic violence which in the end derail economic development and peaceful co-existence.
The history of Ongoza (formally Peace for Africa and Economic Development - PAD) is rooted in a young man’s desire to see a country ripped by violence and polarising ethnicity find its peaceful roots through the youth. In December 2007, Kenya broke into months of post election violence instigated by political tension.
As many watched the violence in silence, Ongoza founder and President Eddy Gicheru Oketch, questioned, “Why couldn’t people use their fingers to promote peaceful existence instead of using those same hands to instigate violence?” From this the “White Finger Peace Initiative” (WIFIPE) was conceived as a movement to inspire youth to participate in peaceful initiatives among the different communities in the county.
In 2011 WIFIPE was rebranded as “Peace for Africa and Economic Development” (PAD), and focused on creating a platform that allows young people to engage with the challenges of economic inequalities that underlay poverty and misinformation, and to productively engage the youth in decision-making processes that contribute to peaceful co-existence. The premise being that once youth are engaged in profitable financial enterprises, they are less likely to be influenced by negative activities.
By June 2008, Ongoza had transformed from just a peace-building organization with focus on high school students, colleges and peace clubs, to an empowerment institution with broader interest in economic sustainability of young people as a precursor to peace.
In 2009, Ongoza held its first conference “The International Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and Peace-Building Conference”, mobilizing over 300 youth in Migori County, Kenya in partnership with African Leadership Academy (ALA). From this conference 5 projects were developed on economic and youth empowerment.
In 2010, Ongoza organized its second conference “The WIFIPE International Youth Peace building Conference” in Nakuru County, Kenya, after which it institutionalized its systems and moved its headquarters to Nairobi County, Kenya.
In 2013, Ongoza held its third conference in Nairobi (sponsored by Equity Bank) bringing together 470 young men and women from across the country, and by the end, all attendees committed to peace by signing the “Peace Charter” (developed in conjunction with the Kenya Red Cross). Towards the end of 2013, PAD concentrated on peace and security initiatives around the elections such as neighborhood peace committees, peace concerts, election monitoring, etc. This culminated in PAD being called to the His Excellency Uhuru Kenyattas, and the former Prime Minister, Honorable Raila Odinga, final rallies so they could sign the PAD “Commitment to Peace”.
In late 2014 and early 2015, a second youth group recruitment drive was done, in which an additional 8 youth groups from the Nakuru and Nairobi Counties were selected.
In early 2016 Ongoza conducted its third recruitment drive and adding another 22 groups, for a total of 30 youth groups to work with. Future plans include the expansion to15 other counties across the nation.
On February 24th 2016, PAD officially changed its name to Ongoza (Kiswahili imperative “Lead”). The new name embodies the focus of the organization in developing businesses run by the youth as a mitigation process in keeping them away from negative political influences and anti-social behavior.
Ongoza continues to grow and develop its capacity to meet the expectations of the Partner Youth Groups it works with, to grow their business enterprises as a foundation of peace.
Other notable achievements include
In 2010-2011, Ongoza Founder and team received State invitation to Mozambique by President Armando Guebuza to work with the Mozambique National Youth Council in replicating the Program. In the same year, PAD work and impact was recognized in both the Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Cape Town (South Africa) World Economic Forums on Africa in Global Changemakers IdeasLab as a mainstay and scalable strategy towards enhancing peace and security in Africa.
In 2012, Ongoza Founder, Eddy Gicheru Oketch, was invited to the G8 Summit 2012 in Washington DC as panel moderator for the Symposium on Food Security.
Ongoza is the recipient of 2012 Kenya Diaspora Award in Washington DC, an award recognizing evaluated national impact and outstanding achievement on grassroots community development and nation building.
Ongoza leading supporters and partners span from local and international renowned corporate societies to non-governmental organizations. These include Equity Bank Limited, The Segal Family Foundation, Kiva, KickStart International, British Council, YMCA, Kenya Youth Development Trust, Coburwas, World Economic Forum, Kenya One and G47 Trust among others.