Nic Hailey and Tim Singleton host discussion on Opportunities for Kenyan Youth

Nic Hailey discussing youth opportunities in Kenya
Nic Hailey discusses opportunities for Kenyan youth. Photo: Twitter/BidianNyamor

Yesterday evening, UK High Commissioner Nic Hailey and Department for International Development Director of Communications, Tim Singleton, hosted a discussion with young Kenyan opinion-formers which sought to answer the question: “As a young person in Kenya, what opportunities are you seeking and what are the challenges you face in achieving your goals?”

The young people contributing to the discussion said they wanted better access to capital, mentoring, networks, open data to allow innovation, and an end to corruption and vested interests which hold them back.

Among the suggestions for ways to support talented young Kenyans were identifying diverse talents early on and supporting the developments of these in all sectors, including the arts which Farzana Ibrahim, a member of the High Commission’s Youth Advisory Panel, identified as one untapped opportunity which she said was “a form of business (which) you can make money from.”

Kenyan youngsters discuss opportunities in Kenya
Some of the youngsters who were discussing opportunities in Kenya. Photo: Twitter/HCNicHailey

Young people were described as the ‘slash generation’, meaning they are not pigeon-holed into one profession. One person can have many strings to their bow, such as worker, writer and innovator and development partners need to escape from these old assumptions and support the diverse skills of today’s youth.

A parallel discussion was also taking part online with contributors Tweeting their thoughts on the subject. Shiro Ann Mbiruru celebrated local young people by posting: “If there’s a human that seeks and aggressively pursues opportunities, it’s the Kenyan youth living in Kenya.  What’s needed is good governance that will enable a conducive business environment for entrepreneurs + investors. We have to demand for it. Civic education is important.

Chatham House Fellow Natasha Kimani stressed the importance of supporting young people by listening to them, not talking at them while an optimistic Bidian Nyamour reflected on opportunities for young people in Kenya, saying “As youth, we can decide the future of the country – we have the numbers”. 

“It’s a myth that young Kenyans don’t have skills. A lot of the machinery and paint is manufactured by them in Kariobangi North. We need to ‘unsophisticate’ how we speak to youth. Young people don’t matter and their voices don’t count in Kenya,“ she said.

One young Kenya who uses locally made technology to empower people with disabilities stressed the importance for young people to have access to places and tools to experiment with their own innovations. While Kenya has the talent and the ambition, it needs the infrastructure to turn ideas into reality, he said.

This theme was continued with the need to identify talented young people from across Kenya who could be trained in leadership and directed towards governance.

Renee Mayaka’s suggestion as to how the international community can support the next generation of Kenyans was to bring youth leaders from around the globe together to share experiences and learn from each other.  

The contributors are looked at how universities best serve young people and how to provide opportunities for entrepreneurship support. For those not choosing entrepreneurship and higher education, there was an expressed need for access to basic interviewing skills preparation, advice on putting together a good cv and to collaborate with the private sector on internships so at the end, the “end product” person is more employable.

Loise Kinuthia identified funding as a ‘major problem’. “I know scholarships help, but only to those who choose courses that are in line with what has been sponsored,” she said, adding: “If you choose a different course, you don’t get sponsorship.”

British companies should seriously consider youth start-ups in Kenya for outsourcing opportunities, said John Weru, while Noreen Makosewe suggested a “buddy system for start-ups to receive industry-specific mentoring from international companies with the aim of knowledge sharing and helping local businesses explore international trade opportunities.”

The takeaways from the meeting that “Opportunities for Kenyan Youth” means:

  • Greater involvement in decision making,
  • More exposure through shared learning, partnership and mentoring,
  • Leadership training, 
  • Support to develop talent.

Tweeting after the event, the High Commissioner thanked attendees “who led such a good conversation.”

Leave a Reply