Kenyan youth are civically engaged, but they experience low literacy rates, elevated youth unemployment, and high adolescent fertility.
At 19th overall, Kenya ranks in the bottom third of Index countries. It tends toward the lower range of this tier in the economic opportunity, education, health, and information and communication technology (ICT) domains.
In the citizen participation domain, Kenya ranks 5th. Three indicators in this domain drive Kenya’s performance: the country places 3rd for youth volunteering, has a youth policy, and has steadily improved its score in democracy as measured by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index.
Kenya’s GDP per capita and global competitiveness score impact its rank of 22nd for economic opportunity. Although Kenya’s youth unemployment rate of 17 percent has stayed relatively constant over the past 20 years, other Index countries have seen improvements in this area. Early-stage entrepreneurial activity at 26 percent far exceeds the Index average of 15 percent. This high rate of business development could signal the formal sector is unable to create enough jobs for youth.
Lower secondary enrollment (68 percent) and literacy rates (86 percent) contribute to Kenya’s education domain rank of 24th. The country spends more than other Index countries on education—21 percent, compared to an average of 16 percent—and young people surveyed are satisfied with their education. Kenya ranks 3rd for this indicator.
A high rate of adolescent fertility—90 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19—far outpaces the Index average of 42 per 1,000. In contrast, Kenya performs well on other health indicators, notably youth stress (41 percent) and tobacco use (14 percent).
Low levels of computer access (13 percent) and mobile phone subscriptions (81 per 100 people), coupled with weak internet usage (40 percent), place Kenya 26th in the ICT domain. However, Kenya outperforms its peers in Sub-Saharan Africa on all of these indicators.
The Global Millennial Viewpoints Survey
Despite the challenges to youth economic participation, Kenyan youth surveyed by IYF are optimistic about their economic future. Ninety percent polled say their standard of living will be better than that of their parents. This optimism is shared across developing economies in which the base standard of living is relatively low and where economic growth has been steady.
Youth perceptions of education and health are somewhat misaligned with the quantitative data. Eighty-one percent of Kenyan youth surveyed are satisfied with their education.
Forty-nine percent of youth surveyed feel that the government does not care about their wants and needs, the 7th lowest proportion seen in Index countries.
Only 14 percent of youth polled rate violence as a top concern impacting their wellbeing, while the actual rate of youth interpersonal violence in Kenya is high. A rate of 12 deaths per 100,000 youth puts Kenya at 20th for this indicator in the safety and security domain.