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YOUNG, GIFTED AND HELD BACK

After 24 years in power the now former President of Tunisia, Zine al-Abidine, has fled into exile to Saudi Arabia having apparently been turned away by several other countries. Lucky for him he did have at least one other option, an invitation from Laurent Gbagbo, still clinging on to power in Cote d’Ivoire, to retire there but obviously Zine al-Abidine thought better of it. Perhaps he saw it as likely to be only a short term arrangement.

The demonstrations in Tunisia came hot on the tail of similar disturbances in Algeria and both have a cause in common beside those of a desire for greater democracy and freedom. The unrest in Algeria and Tunisia were largely the product of younger people rising up against the lack of jobs and opportunities to better their lives.

It is a fact increasingly attested to by commentators(see: Huffington Post) that many Arab countries have in recent years greatly improved education for their rapidly growing, young, populations. The problem is that with better education and greater access to information about life in other parts of the world, the young have been given the ability and desire to achieve more but not the opportunity, a social pressure cooker ever more likely to need to let off steam.

Is that so very different to what is happening in Kenya?

In Kenya 75 per cent of the population are aged less than 30 years old, 54 per cent of the country’s approximately 40 million people aged less than 19 years old, and over eight million aged between 15 and 24. Of the latter age range up to 60 per cent are unemployed in any meaningful way.(see:The Nation)

It is also true that year in year out Kenya is producing more and more highly educated young people that have been exposed to knowledge of the outside world undreamt of by their parents or grandparents.

Many of these young Kenyans leave the country as soon as they can to gain further education and ultimately to get jobs. A report in the Business Daily on January 18 revealed that Kenyan migrants in the UK earn higher salaries than the median annual income in Britain, over 25,428 pounds per year, thus more than 3,203,928 Shillings a year.(see: Buisness Daily Africa)

For the bright, go-ahead youngsters left in Kenya, and they are increasing in number year by year, the prospect is for many one of unemployment or at best low paying work, of living in a society that still does not sufficiently reward talent with opportunity and in which you have to know someone to get on.

The Forum thinks that educated young Kenyans are less likely to rise up or throw stones in their frustration than young people in some other countries but that is not to say that the youth cauldron in Kenya is not heating and may one day boil over.

Zimbabwe military press conference

Raila Odinga Speech at the CSIS Washington DC, USA

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