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Demystifying the false tale about youth

Saturday January 25 2020

Youth unemployment

Young people exploit Safaricom's Blaze Youth Summit held at Mombasa Sports Club on November 15, 2016. Attaining self-sufficiency is not the burden of the youth alone. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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I get irked every time I am in a room and the youth are discussed mockingly using myths.

The prevailing myths are that youth are extremely entitled and want the same thing yet they are lazy.

It is crucial that those who seek to truly understand the youth must be ready to learn why these myths must be demystified.

Foremost, youth is not a monolith or a homogeneous group. The construct of youth is basically used in describing a period in which a person transitions from childhood into adulthood.

This transition often includes becoming mature and being independent. Pursuing self-independence is, however, dependent on the cultural, socio-economic and political context that one lives in.

Meaning that a youth who lives in economic or political environments that aren’t favourable for their economic independence is bound to take longer to attain financial self-sufficiency.


Attaining self-sufficiency is therefore not the burden of the youth alone.


Then again, self-sufficiency cannot come from unclogging drainages, cutting grass or any other minimal jobs that are casually thrown at youth in the name of job creation.

Secondly, the youth don’t want the same thing. The youth are as diverse as any other demographic with various needs, ambitions, ideas, social classes, identities, and so on.

Because of this diversity, engaging young people requires that one doesn’t assume they know every young person – which is often the mistake made by institutions who make blanket diagnosis of youth issues.

Young people in India, Algeria, Sudan, Kenya and elsewhere are bringing their imagination into what systems of governance, economics, societies, religions, sexualities, among others, should be like and this needs to be embraced.

Thirdly, the youth want to live, and this is reason why they’re constantly creating and innovating.

This takes a lot of hard work, time and resources so we cannot possibly still be saying things like young people are lazy.


And yes, young people are young in terms of varying experience but this doesn’t mean their opinions and contributions shouldn’t be valued.

The 2019 Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s report indicates that almost half of Africa’s population (47.8 per cent) is under the age of 35, which makes them the youngest electorate in the world. In Kenya, the under 35-year-olds are now the majority voters.

What then does this mean for countries like Kenya that are yet to understand what to do with their youth?

Well, it means we are all doomed if we even think it is possible to do anything without having youth proactively involved.

It means the next crop of leaders will be chosen by the youth, that institutions must figure out what works for the youth, and that societies must stop talking on their behalf and let them speak for themselves.

The writer is a policy analyst. [email protected]