Kenyan youth are deeply troubled over rising levels of unemployment and are rooting for opportunities to access capital, set up businesses and engage in productive ventures, a new survey indicates.
Unlike in the past, the current generation of youth have put their faith in business, with 48 per cent preferring to venture into entrepreneurship and just 26 per cent keen on employment and careers.
Unlike before, most youth are highly educated and skilled. They are optimistic that despite corruption and scandals, the future is bright as the society will seek to reward merit and hard work rather than mediocrity and sleaze.
Notably, the youth demonstrate a disdain for ethnic identity and bigotry, with the majority seeking to be identified by their nationality.
They have little regard for politicians, generally regarded as unreliable.
KENYA YOUTH SURVEY REPORT
These findings are contained in a study entitled: “The Kenya Youth Survey Report” commissioned by the Aga Khan University’s East African Institute.
It was conducted in October and November last year and involved 1,854 respondents aged between 18-35 years and will be launched online next week.
East African Institute director Dr Alex Awiti said the findings will be shared among key stakeholders, including government, private sector, youth, civil society and faith leaders to stimulate debate and generate practical policies and action plans to prepare the youth for the future.
The study focused on nine thematic areas, namely, identity, integrity, political participation, values, aspirations, education, employment, youth and government, and the future.
Overall, 63 per cent of the respondents expressed worries over the high unemployment rate, which gravely affected those without secondary and tertiary education.
On average, it emerged that 55 per cent of the youth are unemployed, with females bearing the brunt at 62 per cent and worse among rural women at 68 per cent.
Contrastingly, the majority of those with university education are employed; just one out of five graduates is not engaged productively, an indication that university graduates are not any better in terms of job placement.
Strikingly, the report captures contradictions in the minds of the youth.
For example, although they are optimistic about the future where merit counts, they are equally distressed at declining levels of integrity.
Whereas in some questions the respondents expressed their abhorrence of corruption, when the matter was asked directly, some of them seemed unperturbed and were willing to partake in it.
On integrity, half of most respondents indicated that it does not matter what one does to get money and wealth so long as one is not caught.
Further, 47 per cent expressed admiration for those who have acquired money and wealth through dubious means, while 30 per cent think corruption is a profitable venture.
Not surprisingly, 35 per cent were categorical they would easily give or take bribe if a situation presents itself.
The inference is that since corruption has become so entrenched in society with the perpetrators hardly getting punished, the youth are increasingly getting convinced that it is not a desecration after all; and that one can easily give or receive bribe and thrive on it without feeling guilty since it does not attract any penalty, anyway.
When asked on the issue of values, 85 per cent of the youth put faith at the top, 60 per cent ranked family while 45 per cent voted for work.
Even so, the study captures another 62 per cent that appear to be vulnerable to political manipulation.
In particular, 40 per cent of the youth blatantly declared that they would only vote to a candidate who pays them.
Contrary to common perception that the youth are apolitical, the survey shows that majority of them are seriously attuned to events in the political arena and profess their desire for democracy and good governance.
“Compared to their urban counterparts, rural males were twice as likely to vote for the candidate who bribed them; similarly, 40 per cent more rural women, compared to urban women, would vote for the candidate who bribed them.”
From the responses, it can be deduced that because of high levels of unemployment, many youngsters are vulnerable to bribery by politicians, especially in rural areas, and that in itself, is a threat to democracy that embodies free choice.
Despite the low points, the youth see a brighter future, with 77 per cent indicating that the country will be richer, offer job opportunities and promote meritocracy.
In view of the findings, the study concludes that the country has a chance to eliminate ethnicity, build a strong education system that leads to a knowledge-based economy.
However, unemployment remains a threat as more youngsters graduate from the education system.
Also, the country continues to face integrity challenge as the youngsters themselves are ready to partake in corruption, evade taxes and engage in other questionable deals.
Moreover, few of them are ready stand for what is right for fear of retribution.