The Paradox of the Excluded Majority – The Case of the Kenyan Youth.

By Edward Kipkalya

Despite Kenya being a very youthful country, a large percentage of the so-called excluded majority (the youth) is unemployed and feels marginalised in terms of access to opportunities, representation, and participation. According to research done by Emerging Leaders Foundation – Africa in 2019, the top 3 impediments to prosperity of the Kenyan youth are unemployment, lack of mentorship and limited access to information.

Never before have so many youth been hungry for change. We have seen them take to online social networks and communities to connect, express their voices, and campaign for change. We have also seen them protesting authoritarian regimes, corruption, and inequalities. We have also seen them fighting for sustainable development and a better future for current and new generations.

However, the political representation of youth remains limited, yet they are the majority. They are increasingly demanding more meaningful participation in decision-making processes, so they can have more control over how their lives and futures are shaped. Although youth are involved in activism in the digital space, protesting, volunteering to improve their communities, and innovating for social good, their participation in and influence on formal politics is limited. Voter turnout is in decline in all democracies and is concentrated among youth. Youth are underrepresented in political decision-making positions and their involvement in political parties is dwindling.

Why is this so?

Putting into consideration that the current Kenyan youth is grouped into two generations – some of the Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995), and all of Generation Z (born between 1996 and the early-mid 2000s), their needs are not truthfully or effectively reflected in policies related to them. This is because the policymakers do not understand the youth, and the target group’s apathy toward anything as serious as politics or policymaking exacerbates the problem. In Kenya, the millennials are called ‘The joking generation/Unemployed youth’ those who behave in a way that their precedent generations find it strange, bizarre, and disrespectful. Unknowingly criticized now, millennials grew up being heard and praised (Leaders of tomorrow tag). According to Kenya’s Central bank’s financial report 2019, the biggest priority of millennials by education, wealth, sex, and residence was putting food on the table. This is not only their last straw but also a means to their end. On the other hand, Gen Z commonly referred to as ‘digital natives’ are characterized by less reading as compared to other generations. Their desire to learn is limited to our current teaching model which bore them to sleep. It’s a generation that learns differently. Therefore, until we recognize this difference and conceptualize our way of teaching and learning, we will turn them off to education. They prefer learning that is relevant, useful, instantly useful, active, and fun.

These are just but a few differences to show that the youth are not a nameless, faceless mass as they have been treated. Portraying youth as a homogenous group fails to recognize their complexity. It may also be counterproductive to solving key global issues such as fragility, lack of meaningful work opportunities, inequity, and violence even with substantial youth leadership.

Most Kenyan youth in their 20s or 30s are not “active citizens.”. When the government and policy makers ask them to take part in public participation opportunities that might help create policies helpful to people in their age group, the answer tends to be, “Sorry, I am not interested” or “I’m too busy.” Thus, only a handful of those youth insiders are included in the policy process. Is it, then, acceptable to let the majority be excluded? The answer is an emphatic “NO!,” because any policy solution should meet the needs of majority in the target group, not just those of a few individuals. However, since most of this generation is not engaged in policymaking, it continues to be difficult for policymakers to understand their needs and develop effective policies to resolve them. The paradox of the excluded majority is a wicked problem, indeed.

According to a study by Well Told Story, the Kenyan youth can be segmented in 5 categories each with different information needs and different perceptions of government.

First, we have the insiders – these are the youth referenced in policy and government reports, they appear at events to “represent the youth”. However, they are the chosen ones with contacts and access to the right channels of information. They are benefitting from government because they win contracts and tenders and have influence amongst their peers.

Second, we have the professionals – they blindly hang around politicians, serially attending rallies, workshops. They do the dirty underpaid work of those tenders that are given to youth and the “Insiders”. They are benefitting financially in a small way from government. They think they have influence, but they don’t.

Third, we have the disengaged – this is a large group made up of those who feel excluded but still feel that it matters that they are not part of the system. They had hopes in all the government promises but these hopes have gone and now they’ve given up, they are looking elsewhere for help and inspiration.

Fourth, we have the disgruntled – they represent vijana wapotovu, a smaller group of ‘angry’ youth, with skewed or no information, feeling excluded and voiceless. They feel their vote meant nothing and they’ve been let down by a government who cares nothing for them and just sold them lies. This group may be tempted by any offers of structure and opportunity like radicalization by extremist groups such as Al Shabaab.

Fifth, we have the disenfranchised – in politics there has been a biased notion that ‘youth’ = ‘male’. Most young women fall into this category of the disenfranchised. They ‘don’t even know if they care’ about politics. They make no assumptions about their ‘rights’ in the political space and get on with their lives with little thought of governance and certainly none of participation.

Despite multiple policy statements that acknowledge profound differences in youth, there is no widely accepted organizing framework that shifts the perspective from seeing youth as a homogenous mass, to thinking about how we address specific challenges and opportunities. When we talk about youth development, youth is as unique as the issue we’re trying to resolve, and the context in which it occurs. We need an issue-focused approach, in which youth is not labelled indiscriminately, but seen as people with a specific problem they need to solve. Youth are a key piece of the puzzle to solve global challenges. But a more effective approach, and the real solution, lies in narrowing in on the problems that affect them and forging specific, contextualized solutions to those problems.

As a Kenyan youth, I am optimistic that the youth of Kenya will one day claim its meaningful role as equal partners in the development process. That day will draw closer by registering as voters and voting for the the leaders who are ready to invest not only in us but our future generations. All this is possible if we act. Talk is cheap, voting is free; let’s take it to the polls. Vijana Tunaweza!

The writer is currently the Program Officer in charge of Governance & Civic Engagement at Emerging Leaders Foundation – Africa (www.elfafrica.org). You can connect with him via Twitter: @Edward_Kalya

Kenya’s Cursed Generation – The 90s

The babies born in the nineties! This article is about young people between the ages of 20 and 29.

In March last year, I was part of the stop these thieves march. This was on the backdrop of millions of Kenya shillings stolen from public coffers, an unsustainable public debt and lethargic delivery of public services. Walking into freedom corner, I met a couple of people, most of them way over 35 years of age but there were probably just a handful of 20 – 29 year olds. You who are most affected by these ills, didn’t even care to show up to protest. Your very future is being auctioned in front of you, yet, you still expect your parents to take care of this one, just the same way they take care of every bottleneck you encounter.

You are the generation that has voted once, twice or never. And this is why your views on things that matter like governance and economics, among others, are, ‘‘I don’t care.’’  You were born at a time when the Moi government was implementing the Structural Adjustment Programs, a pathetic foreign program that crippled the economy and left many with economic wounds still being nursed to date. Then came the repeal of section 2A of the constitution, after years of struggle and an attempted coup, multipartism was reintroduced. For the next two elections, Kenya witnessed election-related violence like never before, some of your parents actively took part in the skirmishes. Between 1990 and 1999 your parents made poor choices, and going by recent trends it looks like they passed down their poor decision-making skills to you, because in the two elections you have taken part in, you have redefined the meaning of poor electoral choices.

You have voted for and supported incompetence, you have given mediocre politicians a god-like status, you have sat back unperturbed by reckless economic policies, you have cheered at nonsense and jeered at sense.

You have voted for and supported incompetence, you have given mediocre politicians a god-like status, you have sat back unperturbed by reckless economic policies, you have cheered at nonsense and jeered at sense. You have laughed when the police brutalized fellow Kenyans and tweeted in support of such immorality.

Truth is, your parents cannot save you from this one. You cannot call home and get an M-pesa message that solves your trouble. Here is the thing, you must grow up and part of this means taking up responsibility for your future. Knowing that it is important to work hard in school, but even more important is asking about the quality of that education and an assurance of a job upon completion or having an enabling environment for you to innovate and create jobs for other young people.

Growing up means less tweeting and more action. It calls upon you to organize yourselves and support those among you who can represent you at the table where decisions are made and where the national cake is being shared.

Growing up means stopping less complaining and more taking of responsibility. You must teach yourself to not only understand your rights but also embrace and take responsibility. Participate in shaping your future and in defining the destiny of your nation.

Like the hummingbird, what’s your little thing? Find it and pursue it relentlessly. Make your voice heard. Salvage your generation. Be the change.

The Author is the Communications Officer at ELF. 

Don’t Agonize, Organize.

The title of this article is a widely used slogan and is credited to the Afro-American woman civil rights activist Florence Rae Kennedy, its popularity stems from two realities; on the one had we cringe at the pain, suffering and indignities afflicted on us, while on the other hand we are challenged as to what we can do in response.

Agonizing is a much-taken path by the youth since its easy to complain, to talk ourselves into believing that nothing we do can bring about any change, and most times we wait for the “right moment” (whatever that means). Constantly procrastinating action and rationalizing it with the fear of timing – news flash; the right time is NOW, if you choose to make it one.

Proper and collective organization is the key to the 75% of youth in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa turning their potential power into REAL power that will end historical political and economic marginalization. There is a lot of talk that the political class should hand over power/ include young people in government, but truth be told, power is hardly ever given on a silver plater, leaders have to EMERGE and EVOLVE over the period of organizing, and it is these leaders who then champion for the beginning an era of youth participation.

In Kericho county for example, a group of young people has started the journey of organizing themselves to engage fellow young people better and to participate in the governance processes of the county. What started in 2017 as a group of fifteen youths identified, trained and sent out by Emerging Leaders Foundation to start meaningful engagement with the county government and move from noise to voice, has now grown into a formidable youth working group. As of last month, the group had brought together representatives from 27 of the 30 wards.

The purpose of the newly formed Kericho Youth Leadership Network is to be the umbrella organization for all youth groups/organizations in the county for effective driving of the youth agenda, enhance youth participation in governance processes and foster attitude change through capacity building and opportunity tapping for the youth of Kericho. In other words, the vijana of Kericho want to mobilize around issues, they are tired of being on the periphery and being turned in mere spectators and cheer leaders in their own territory, they have realized something which I hope resonates with young people across the country; that yes, we can! (Tunaweza) That we are the captains of our ships; masters of our destinies and for change to occur we must desire it, we must trigger it and we must sacrifice for it.

Three key lessons from the youth of Kericho;

  1. Collective action is stronger than individual action – mobilization, clarity and strategy.
  2. We need serious organization to get things done – commitment, effectivity and inclusivity.
  3. Alternative to elected leadership is unelected leadership – leaders without titles.

Agonizing never got people anywhere, it only maintained the status quo. Our aspirations will be met depending on how well and fast we ORGANIZE!

 

CHANGE IS HERE

The ‘A’ team. There is a desire to belong, but few can. To a clique? Certainly not, but the struggle to be part of something greater than the persona of self, a movement, mission of purpose, to create, impact and continuously do so. Isn’t this what we strive for? Be part of? Yet choose not to! “How?” you ask. You first think of your-self before our-self, you think of your milestones rather than of our milestones. You dream of being part, however the validity of your dream is dependent on your actions. With such witty thoughts, how do you be part of a mission that requires selflessness, resilience, commitment and conviction?
The year 2018, the philosophy of team work has never sunk so deep. Joining Emerging Leaders foundation, that “ahh” feeling with an end to end smile of satisfaction crossing your face, knowing change is here with us, knowing the toil and effort required and saying yes to be part of the change and more encouraging, the fact that you are not one or two but that you are a community, a multitude of change agents. The ninth wonder that should be included is how the Elf staff synchronize their work, the synergistic transfer of energy to where needed most such as that employed by all-wheel drive (AWD) in Subaru vehicles (it’s okay to google). It’s seamless and delivers quality results. Keep up you are my inspiration.
I celebrate cohort 5 2018 at ELF. You are the life changing experience of my 2018. You are creative, intelligent, persistent, resilient, compassionate, concerned, dependable, reliable, committed persons determined to improve yourself so as to improve their space of influence and community. Driven by Ubuntu, service through leadership and excellence in what we do, you are an inspiration of a team. Whatever you do, wherever you will go and to whom you will interact with keep being the inspiration.

 

Written By;
Lore Kouko – ELF Alumni (Cohort 5)

90% of Life is About Showing Up!

There is an old saying most often attributed to Woody Allen that “90% of life is showing up.” Actually, it turns out that the number is somewhere between 75 and 90, depending on the recollection of the person reciting the quote, but either way, the balance of life is about following up. Allen’s point is a good one. Just get involved, make the call, or introduce yourself. The results will astonish you.

My colleague always reminds us that we are the finest humans to ever walk the face of the earth; our great grandparents were not as smart and did not have as many opportunities as we do today. We have evolved into the ideal humans that our ancestors could not even dream about, in fact, should some of our ancestors rise from the dead today, they would go bonkers over what they would see. What sets us apart from other animals, is that we are story telling animals with the ability to organize ourselves.

In view of the foregoing, young people do not have the luxury of feeling hopeless or powerless today, across the country the chorus is the same “my governor hasn’t done …. Things cannot be done”. There is a feeling of indignation to a point where the youth even seem to think that voting will never change much.

But think about this; what hope or power did our fore fathers have when they were fighting the colonialist, the odds were against them, they did not have the numbers and neither did they have weaponry to face the oppressor. Yet against all odds a few men and women organised themselves and showed up for battle, thanks to them today we are a sovereign nation.

Better still let’s bring it closer and think about the second liberation; when young politicians and members of the civil society were demanding for political inclusion through the repeal of section 2A of the constitution, what power did they have? They were lone voices, strange voices demanding the unthinkable. But they dared to dream of a different society, the looked beyond themselves and reached out to a higher purpose, and look at us today? We have 63 political parties and across the country we can freely assemble to express our political beliefs.

Had these women and men given up or chose to dwell on what was not impossible, I doubt I would have even had the freedom to write this article, but because they dared to think and organise differently, we are where we are.

Fellow young people the onus is on us, things will only get better if we think and act differently, we must organise around issues and build teams in every county and sub-county to engage strategically with duty bearers, we must be willing to sustain the murmur long enough. Nobody understands youth issues like the youth themselves, hence we are best placed to do youth advocacy. Society always turns to young people in its hour of need, can we be counted on; because truth is, things are messed up all around us.

To the youth of Kilifi, who are the inspiration of this post; thank you for showing up for the Tunaweza training, we have built your capacity and we believe that you guys have assembled the best team to start meaningful engagement with your county officials. Don’t tire! And never loose sight of the antelope because of a dashing squirrel. 

 

 

Written by Jim India

Communication Officer

Emerging Leaders Foundation

Millennials stand up, this is the hour

By ARNOLD MALIBA
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A United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN Desa) analysis report, ‘World Population Prospects 2017’, shows that people born after Year 2000, commonly referred to as Generation Z, will next year constitute 32 per cent of the world’s population, surpassing Millennials, or Generation Y, who will comprise 31.5 per cent.

Millennials are the demographic cohort following Generation X. They were born between the early 1980s and the mid ’90s to early 2000s.

Next year, the first batch of circa one million Kenyans born in 2001 will turn 18, the age of majority. And whereas, the world will wait till next year to experience this phenomenon, Kenya’s Generation Z have already surpassed Millennials as we are a child-rich nation, with slightly over half of the population under 18.

Millennials (Yours Truly included), with their exceptionalism and self-centredness, must contend with the fact that they are not only old but also a minority that ought to give way to Generation Z — a people who have never known a non-digital world, have a more global thinking, are less self-centred, are tech-savvy and entrepreneurial.

PASSING BLAME

Millennials are now the elders of this generation (by the way, you don’t argue with age; no one wins). Already, there’s no room for passing the blame to the generation ahead as Millennials assume watch over the nation and, therefore, take on national responsibility.

With a background of such an epic demographic handover on the homestretch, the nation is also plagued with a host of other challenges threatening its very existence — including massive unemployment, an unbearable national debt, fledgling leadership and an economy in turmoil.

LOT AT SEA

Policymakers, educators and the private sector had just cracked an understanding of the Millennials, and here we are, with the arrival of a different generation in a country now seemingly lost at sea.

The political front is amorphous; you can’t tell head from tail, government and opposition — a larger Jubilee group with three formations: A (Kitaeleweka), B (Tangatanga) and C (Tingatinga). In addition, we have a weakened civil society, a rogue Parliament and an apathetic electorate.

Millennials now have the singular task of leading the charge in shouldering the largest national debt any generation of Kenyans has ever serviced, defend civil liberties and revive the economy before Generation Z takes the baton of the republic.

INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

But as this is happening, the rest of the world is preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0); a technological revolution riding on Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) that will fundamentally alter the way we live in a scope, scale and complexity never experienced by Mankind before.

No one knows how that will unfold as yet but the response to this must be integrated and comprehensive involving polity, public, academia, private sector and civil society.

And with Kenya at a crossroads, grappling with a present too complex, the future is bleak — unless Millennials show up for duty with diligence, determination and discipline. For this is their hour!

Mr Maliba is a programme manager at Emerging Leaders Foundation (ELF). ask@arnoldmaliba.com. Twitter: @ArnoldMaliba

Courtesy of: https://www.nation.co.ke/oped/opinion/-Millennials-stand-up–this-is-the-hour/440808-4764584-lyknnez/index.html

Youth at the Center of Social Change in Kenya.

You can’t start a fire without a spark! Whenever society is faced with the greatest of threats, it has the tendency to constantly turn to the youth. The energy in pursuit, purity of purpose, clarity of vision and passion in articulation of issues is recipe for successful revolutions.

The last decade has arguably been the worst time for the youth of Kenya, we’ve been leathered from every side, our dreams shattered, the promise of education bleak, the availability of jobs almost nil, the factors of production held in the hands of a few greedy men.

But then I’m reminded that, “the best thing you can learn from the worst times of our life is that it always gets better. It may take a month, a year, a decade, but it will get better if you leave yourself open to it.”

In the last election something happened that went unnoticed or rather wasn’t properly celebrated. First, we got more youth into the different elective positions, but perhaps most interesting is the fact that we had more youth who ran as independent candidates and even a greater number who ran on alternative political parties apart from the two big coalitions at the time.

Sometimes we need reminding about who we are and what we can become, a little pride,a little determination and a true sense of commitment can spur us to demand better for ourselves and our communities. The youth who vied inspired the rest of us, the fact that they did campaigns focused on their manifestos speaks volumes. these young people knocked on doors, sat under trees, engaged youth and women groups, they challenged the common way of financing campaigns by asking the people to support their campaigns. They walked on foot and freely interacted with the electorate. There were no big rallies, with loud music and “chini kwa chini” dance, no big cars with tinted windows.

Perhaps if we do our politics differently by ensuring that we do not give handouts to voters and that every Kenyan is invested in the campaign process from start to end, then we could have a different story to tell successive generations, a story that is devoid of violence, theft and bribery, but one that is full of hope and progress.

I am glad that this change is being championed by my generation and I invite each of you to join the bandwagon, change inevitable.

 

Written by Jim India,

Communication Officer at Emerging Leaders Foundation.