Where are the youth of Kenya in the 2022 General Election? [Pulse Editor's Opinion]

Kenya is a nation on the move and youth is its greatest asset, but why do young people appear removed from the revolution they are leading?

Kenyan youth during a political rally before 2020

By way of introduction, this article is featured on Pulse Live Kenya, an award-winning digital publisher in the country and part of Pulse Africa - the 2021 winner of WAN-IFRA African Digital Media Awards' Best in Audience Engagement.

The Pulse Kenya audience is spread out across the globe, however, 83% of our site users are Kenyans and of all our engaged readers, the majority are in the 25-34 demographic (35%) with the closest second majority being 35 to 44-year-olds (24%).

As a digital medium, we have succeeded in gaining the attention and trust of Kenya's young population, and in return, given them an avenue to be heard. Don't believe me? I invite you to our page here, witness it in real-time. We inform, and engage.

As a young Kenyan professional - watching, engaging with, and reporting on the upcoming elections - I questioned why thousands of young Kenyans who have a voice online seem largely disinterested in this pivotal process in our version of democracy.

And there's a resounding answer to my question - what for?

The 2013 General Election was, perhaps, as monumental as the 2002 General Election when Kenyans united and made their voice heard after years of whispering about the Nyayo Era.

What made the 2013 elections epic was - I'm convinced - the spectacular, youth-run, youth-focused, youth-celebrating campaign showcased by the Jubilee coalition.

A recent media interview granted by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja confirmed that part of the success for the Jubilee campaign that year, was a Mr Uhuru Kenyatta who trusted his advisors on the advantage of young and upcoming politicians in running his campaign.

Fast-forward to 2022 and the youth of Kenya are being used to push sponsored hashtags on social media, as confirmed by senior media executives in the country.

Both the politicians and the youth in their employ ignore one fact: Kenyans have already called out celebrities over 'clout-chasing'. The youth of Kenya are tech-savvy and more intelligent than these groups would like to assume.

Sponsored hashtags are muffling the voices of Kenya's youth in political discourse and most young people have chosen not to engage with the process for that reason.

The critical importance of understanding, anticipating, and serving audience needs is not lost on media practitioners such as I.

Politicians as well, although Kenyan politicians tend to ignore the needs and instead expend themselves in creating and pursuing political 'treasure-hunts' while cajoling the polity to spectate.

To quote one of my favourite Kenyan rappers Sewersydaa Mkadinali on Umoroto: "Mkate ikatwe nusu-nusu? Biz legit ni tukiwa mi na Wuzu. Na nikuuliza tu, BBI-corona inatuhusu?"

Sewersydaa is who I'd call a 'lyrical activist', he weaves many of his political views into his music, and together with Wakadinali, they command millions of views on YouTube. Given the themes and genre of their music, like Pulse Kenya, I bet that over 80% of their fans are Kenyans.

A young Kenyan with a voice, and he represented a question many young Kenyans have asked: "Why should I vote for you and you'll only get into office to enrich yourself?"

For a long time, politicians have ignored the importance of public agenda to their politicking and the 2022 General Election may very well end this kind of conduct to politics in Kenya.

The people - a majority of whom are youth - are set on building successful lives for themselves and not relying on political benevolence. But politicians have mistaken this eagerness to be productive members of society for wanting hand-outs.

According to a 2021 survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS): "The percentage of youth not in the education system, not working or being trained for work was recorded at 16.9% in quarter 1 of 2021, a 1.2% reduction from the level recorded in the previous quarter."

The political rhetoric being propagated by men and women old enough to be fathers, mothers, and grandparents of Kenya's young population has focused on 16.9% instead of the 83.1% who are already doing their best to create a Kenya they are proud of.

Kenya's youth are demonstrating that it is not wheelbarrows or a national 'Azimio' they want, that's aged and not at all aligned with the pursuits of respected world economies.

I'll go as far as to put forward that, perhaps it is this 16.9% who attend rallies, receive hand-outs, shout the loudest, and politicians use their presence on their campaigns to justify ignoring the actual majority when creating policies.

My call is to the 83%, will you please stand up and be counted in the August 9 General Election?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Pulse as its publisher.

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