Document Type



East African Institute


While nationalism and sovereign assertions are on the ascendancy, we live in a world that has never been more connected. But as East Africans, our common challenges and shared aspirations transcend geography and politics. Moreover, globalization, technology, climate change, disease pandemics and terrorism have weaved nations into interdependent social and geopolitical realities. The objective of the East Africa Dialogue Series (EADS) was to gather reliable evidence and make such evidence available to a wide range of stakeholders who then use the evidence to stimulate dialogue, debate, reflection and action to address urgent challenges. The dialogue series focused on three challenges; youth bulge, rapid urbanization, growth and inequality.

A range of methods was used to gather, synthesize, disseminate information, and motivate public dialogue. These included national-level literature review, quantitative and qualitative survey, exploratory analysis and statistical modeling, city-level ethnography, dramatic dialogue and role play, participatory photography and photo exhibitions, The choice of these methods and the nature of the evidence examined were determined through consultation and processes of participatory of co-creation with key stakeholder groups.

The youth dialogue paints a complex portrait of East African youth. While they succumb to the material vices dominant in their societies – corruption, electoral fraud, tax evasion and impunity – they cherish family, community and faith. Moreover, they are eager to engage in self-employment through entrepreneurship. The youth are juggling conflicting value positions, are torn between behavior and choices that they know to be wrong – but which are normalized in the wider society – and what they believe are the right values and attitudes.

Ahead of Kenya’s 2017 elections, media houses (CNN, Al Jazeera and Bloomberg, China Global Television Network, Kenya’s local media) sought after the youth survey data to shed light on how the views of youth on electoral fraud, tribalism, citizenship and corruption would influence their participation in the election and/or possibly shape its outcome. Furthermore, the findings of the survey with respect to identity, disillusionment, impunity, trust or lack of trust in public and social institutions are informing research and dialogue on the non-material underlying causes and cost to society of violent extremism in Africa.

The urbanization dialogue – young cities – illustrates the capacity and agency of youth to enhance the quality of the experience youth have with respect to living, working and leisure. Informed by the ideas sparked because of the patriciparoty photography, exhibition and community dialogue, youth-led design teams demonstrated how simple ideas could transform unsafe and neglected spaces into beautiful urban spaces that support meaningful play and social stimulation and safety.

The growth and inequality dialogue revealed the spatial patterns of inequality, clustering Kenya’s 47 counties into five distinct groups defined by critical human wellbeing outcomes like stunting, level of mother’s education, child mortality and maternal mortality. A critical institutional outcome of the EADS is the development of East Africa Institutes’ capacity in data and policy analytics through dynamic map based and dashboard visualization to support multi-criteria policy and decision analysis. The institute will continue to deepen its research and policy engagement capacity on youth, urbanization and the application of data and policy analytics to inform decision-making and public participation.