Document Type

Report

Department

East African Institute

Abstract

Kenya is a very youthful country. The median age is estimated at 19 years, and about 80 percent of Kenya’s population is below 35 years.

To a very large extent, Kenya’s youth — defined as individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 — will determine the shape of the country’s future. With that in mind, the East African Institute of the Aga Khan University commissioned a survey to understand the values, attitudes, concerns and aspirations of this critical segment of the population.

We interviewed 1,854 respondents ages 18-35 from across the country, including both urban and rural areas. The survey reveals a number of important and sometimes surprising insights, and offers reasons both for optimism, deep concern and the need for urgent action.

The youth identify as Kenyans first, faith and tribe. They value family, faith and hard work. They give evidence of being entrepreneurial: the majority would like to start their own business, rather than pursue careers in law, teaching, medicine or engineering. Few (11%) want to become farmers, suggesting that the country’s urbanization is likely to continue apace, intensifying demand and competition for offfarm employment. Moreover, Kenyan youth are largely positive and optimistic about the future and are confident that it will be more prosperous, offering more jobs and better access to health and education.

The study also reveals that youth are suffering from and concerned about unemployment. And it shows that many hold beliefs that make them vulnerable to political manipulation and that risk undermining democracy and good governance. Indeed, it is not too much to speak of a crisis of integrity among Kenya’s youth.

While the findings may seem contradictory – hopeful and depressing – there is an opportunity to focus on developing and channeling the strongly held positive values of faith, family, hard work and a strong Kenyan identity to address the anomalies in honesty and integrity, while mobilizing public and private sector resources to tackle the most urgent concerns, especially unemployment.

Publication

East Africa Institute

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