Talent Development And The Empowerment Of Kenyan Youth (Source: Kendesk)

Talent Development And The Empowerment Of Kenyan Youth (Source: Kendesk)

I remember back in campus how eager many of us were to graduate and get our dream jobs and eventually live our dream lives. Oblivious of the reality on the ground, many of us hit down the road of tarmacking which is a phase some find too long and tedious while others are lucky to escape it by getting a job sooner after leaving campus. Most recent graduates have had to read from a similar script when it comes to tarmacking.

Employers will tell you that fresh graduates lack the hands-on experience to take up serious positions in their organizations. The situation is really sad as hundreds of thousands of graduates are chunned out every year into the job market to face the wrath of unemployment. It’s great that a couple of corporates have introduced talent searches across the country to enable them develop and mentor youth through various activities.

Youth Unemployment Situation

Youth unemployment rate in Kenya is still at staggering levels despite the government and private sector intervention. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in a survey reported that four in every ten Kenyan youths, of working age are unemployed, making it the worst in the region. Another recently concluded survey conducted in March 2017 showed that 39.1% of the Kenyan population of working age do not have jobs.

When youths are idle, they plunge into crime and other social vices, something that is not healthy for the community and the economy.

Talent Development Programs

There any many renown youth who are using their talents which has earned them respect in their different fields; from acting, football, athletics, singing to running businesses. Am usually amazed by people like Sauti Soul, Victor Wanyama, David Rudisha, Lupita Nyong’o, Humphrey Khayange who are young people who’ve used their talents to create their own success paths. All of them started from somewhere; from being identified to being nurtured until they could compete on a global stage.

Some corporates like Safaricom, EABL, Britam, Brookside and other organizations like NGOs and County governments have contributed to talent search and development through the following initiatives;


The Safaricom brand asset dubbed ‘Be Your Own Boss’ is aimed at giving the youth a platform to showcase their talents as well as empower them with knowledge and understanding to maintain and use these talents to succeed in life.

This platform doesn’t discriminate any profession unlike the normal education system that seems to regard some professions higher than others.

The first edition of BLAZE saw participating youths get access to a selection of mentors succeeding in unconventional fields, with the aim of empowering them with the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to succeed in those professions. These mentors cut across all professions, you could even see from the professional diversity of the contestants.

Having accomplished people like Caroline Mutoko, Trushar Khetia , Rabbit and being backed by Safaricom, a company that has proved to be the hub of innovations, BLAZE BYOB participants were very lucky to have the kind of support every entrepreneur dreams of.

Over 44,000 youths were in attendance through the six summits held across the country last year. 778 men and women auditioned for the BYOB TV show going through a five-stage audition process that came down to the 12 finalists.

The overall winner was 19 year old Valentine Nekesa, a designer who walked away with a total of Ksh 5 million with ksh 3 million in cash and the rest in form of mentorship and business support.

  • Tusker Project Fame

Many of us can recall the renown musical singing competition Tusker Project Fame. Some of Kenyan great singers like Amos and Josh are a result of this music show that aimed at searching and nurturing musical talent for East African youth.  The East African singing competition which ran for six seasons was sponsored by EABL. The winner of this competition went away with KES 5 million, music recording support and one year of security. Besides music, EABL has also sponsored the CECAFA football tournament, in 2010, after Tusker sponsored the 34th CECAFA tournament as the title sponsors, it was renamed the CECAFA Tusker Cup.

  • Chapa Dimba

The football Kenya Federation in partnership with Safaricom unveiled a Kshs100 million football challenge dubbed ‘Chapa Dimba Na Safaricom’.  Registration for Chapa Dimba closed in July and targeted boys and girls aged 16 – 20 years. The tournament will see  games being played countrywide from September 2017 to March 2018. Harambee Stars Captain Victor Wanyama, was also unveiled as Chapa Dimba Na Safaricom Ambassador.

The winning teams will each walk away with Kshs1 M (one million) and a trip to London in April 2018 during which they will get a chance to have mentorship sessions with Wanyama, visit a youth training camp and watch a live game.

  • Governor’s Cup

Some county governments have come up with initiatives to avoid youth idleness through fostering county sports initiatives. Counties like Nairobi, Kakamega and Vihiga have played host to the governor’s cup curated by the governors of these counties.

Nairobi governor’s cup for example, was started to educate youth on dangers of alcoholism and other vices and is sponsored by County Liquor board and organised on behalf of the County and Nairobi FKF Branch.The governer before kick-off advised the players to shun drugs and engage in sporting activities.

Vihiga county holds the Akaranga Cup while Kakamega county the Oparanya cup, all aimed at identifying football talent in their counties.

Other Talent Development Initiatives

There are other talent search and development programs held by different corporates and organizations, some of which have been done while others are recurrent. BRITAM, for example, in 2009, made a donation towards the Mwea Classic Marathon. An annual event to not only empower youth in Mwea, Kirinyaga, but to also discover talent among them.

Then there is the famous Safaricom athletics series which aims to transform lives through sports, using sporting events to bring communities together while at the same time identifying and nurturing new talent. Some of the events under the series include the Safaricom Deaf Half Marathon and the Safaricom National Deaf Athletics Championships and many more. Other initiatives include Sakata Ball by Safaricom, Brookside East Africa Secondary School Games sponsored by Brookside, Safaricom Next generation and the Sportpesa Premier League sponsored by Sportpesa.

Talent development in Kenya has been hampered by the inadequate access to quality training facilities and equipment. Accessiblity to the aforementioned facilities would create a positive environment that encourages proper training. I believe if we put a good percentage of our national budget into nurturing different talents as early as primary school,  then we would have more of Rudishas, Injeras , Wanyamas and even Lupitas.

23rd Berklee Annual Gala

23rd Berklee Annual Gala

The 23rd Berklee Annual Gala Marriot Hotel Boston. Grammy Award winning funk,R&B, and Soul group Tavares. Master of Ceremony Rickey Minor 2017 Emmy Award recipient Director, Producer, Composer The tonight show with Jay Leno, Director The Grammy Awards,American Idol and America’s Got Talent. All Proceeds benefit the Berklee City Music Program, a non profit organization that leverages the power of contemporary music to empower youth.

6th Annual Gyg Exchange Trip To Kenya

6th Annual Gyg Exchange Trip To Kenya

The 6th Annual GYG exchange trip to Kenya in collaboration with PPMC, Fadhilimusic, hedgehog creative, NairobiInternationalschool, Pumwaniboys, Jamhurievents, Masinde muliro university of science and technology (MMUST). Conducting Music workshops at the Permanent Presidential Music Commission Nairobi Kenya.

Students Travel To Kenya For Cultural Exchange

While some of their peers are lounging at the beach this summer, a group of Berklee College of Music students and alumni, and Newton North and Needham High School students, are using the break as an educational opportunity. The students will participate in a cultural exchange program in Kenya from June 24 to July 15 through local organization Global Youth Groove (GYG), whose mission is to transform the lives of youth through music. They will teach and perform; study Swahili; learn about traditional Kenyan music, instruments, and dance; and be immersed in Kenyan culture. The program is spearheaded by Berklee staff member Sam Lutomia, cofounder of GYG and cofounder of Acacia in Kenya, a fundraising effort that provides support for girls’ education.

23rd Berklee Annual Gala

The 23rd Berklee Annual Gala Marriot Hotel Boston. Grammy Award winning funk,R&B, and Soul group Tavares. Master of Ceremony Rickey Minor 2017 Emmy Award recipient Director, Producer, Composer The tonight show with Jay Leno, Director The Grammy Awards,American Idol and America’s Got Talent. All Proceeds benefit the Berklee City Music Program, a non profit organization that leverages the power of contemporary music to empower youth.

6th Annual Gyg Exchange Trip To Kenya

The 6th Annual GYG exchange trip to Kenya in collaboration with PPMC,Fadhilimusic,hedgehog creative,NairobiInternationalschool,Pumwaniboys, Jamhurievents,Masindemulirouniversityofscienceandtechnology(MMUST). Conducting Music workshops at the Permanent Presidential Music Commission Nairobi Kenya.

Art & Music

Art and Music are not offered in Cambodian public schools. Through weekly piano, guitar, flute, and singing classes, along with various art programs incorporated into the English classes, we give our students exposure to a variety of art forms.  

Music and Art offer children a different way to express themselves and interact with the world around them. Broadening their perspectives not only helps them to think in new ways but also brings joy, happiness, and confidence.

Through volunteers and partner organizations, we also provide concerts in the communities, and our children have the opportunity to perform for community members at annual school parties.

Transforming Youth Talent into Livelihoods

At the age of 8 years, Angelo Kochgor Gatjiek was forced to flee his home country, South Sudan, when war broke out between North and the South in 2000.

Angelo, now aged 24 years old, has lived in Kakuma refugee camp located in Turkana County – North West Kenya for the last 16 years.

Upon arrival, Angelo was enrolled in school. He sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (K.C.P.E) in 2008 and later for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (K.C.S.E) in 2013.

Upon completion of secondary education, Angelo had planned to travel back to his home country to continue with his post-secondary education. On reaching the Kenya – South Sudan border, word reached him of a civil unrest that had started in Africa’s newest state, South Sudan. He had to abandon the journey and return to Kakuma refugee camp.

According to Angelo, life in the refugee camp is not as easy especially for the youth who make up a majority of the population. “I have to work extra hard to provide for my younger brother and elder brother’s family, to whom I have become a tower of strength,” he says.

Unable to further his education, Angelo turned to music.  In 2014, he was lucky enough to secure a job with one of the humanitarian agencies where he saved most of his earnings which he used to record his first song in 2015.

“I had to travel to Lodwar to record my first music. There are no professional recording studios in Kakuma and the available studios, are ill-equipped.”

Angelo is among 55% of the youth population in the camps that have limited opportunities to advance in higher education. UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies are coming up with innovative projects that can enable refugee youth earn a living from their talents.

Artist for Refugees’ (A4R) project by UNHCR is one of its kind, currently being implemented by the Danish Refugee Council. Through this project, professional Kenyan artists Henry Ohanga (hip-hop artist) and Victor Ndula (Cartoon illustrator  for the Star Newspaper) work with a group of refugee artists in a mentorship program that not only helps them develop their talents but also equips them with skills on how to turn their talent into livelihood. The project incorporates two major aspects: visual art and music.

“Through the project, I have learnt that my music is my medium to a better life.”

Raouf Mazou, UNHCR Representative in Kenya says “The idea is to provide an opportunity for them to express themselves their art knowing that this could transform into a livelihood for them.”

The project aims at promoting self-reliance and livelihood for refugees through talent. Whereas Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement harbors thousands of talented refugees, there is a lot more that needs to be done to nurture these talents and help refugees compete fairly with other professionals not as refugees but as talented people.

“I joined the Artist for Refugees project in 2016 where I was trained by Octopizzo (Henry Ohanga) on how to market myself as an artist, how to create my own unique music, and how to earn through my music.”

“I went to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city and participated in the launch of the ‘Refugeenius Album. It was an amazing experience as I got to perform with Octopizzo for a large audience and fans at Nairobi’s Prestige Plaza,” Angelo says.

Growing Talent For Development In Kenya

The national youth policy (2006) of Kenya defines youth as between 15 to 30 years. The majority of Kenya’s population falls in this gap. Youth in Kenya are talented in sports, the arts and entertainment. The youth unemployment problem is on the increase as Kenya’s universities churn out thousands of graduates each year. Realistically, the number of graduates produced every year cannot be absorbed into the labour force of Kenya. This seems to be the development dilemma every government faces.

With the coming in of the Jubilee government in 2013, the jubilee manifesto focused mainly in investing on the youth through improvement of education, infrastructure, and access to opportunities such as SMEs for the youth. However, most of the policies proposed are yet to be implemented 5 years on. The unemployment levels are on the rise as more youth engage in crime and drug abuse as a result.

Many youth engage in talents that is earning them respect from their peers and self-employment. The jua kali sector is a great example of young people using skills and talents to create employment opportunities. Young people are coming together to form bands for example Hart the band, Sauti Sol, Elani among others who use their musical talent to create their own employment and help others coming into the music industry.

Talent is inborn and can also be developed as a result of passion and interest. Other developed nations for instance the United States of America encourage the development of talent potential that eventually drives the economy. Many young people for example in the United States are in the acting industry and earn millions through film production and acting. Education is important and is the foundation of key skill development. However, Talent cannot be overlooked in skill enhancement and development in developing countries such as Kenya.

Africa needs to focus on developing of talents for sustainable development. A talent does not cut off creativity rather enhances it and the youth have a lot of energy that can be put to good use. For instance many graffiti artists are making a living off painting public service vehicles.

If we put this into figures, it results in huge percentages of profit for government.  Many families can afford healthcare, better housing, access to education, food and eventually overcome poverty. Talent development will ensure that the crime rate is reduced as more young people will receive an incentive from using their talents in a positive way to enhance their lives and those of their families.

Talent no doubt drives innovation which leads to sustained livelihoods and economies. There have been innovations in ICT, healthcare, mobile money,among others and still others are coming up. Talent can so easily be used to train others for example ladies who engage in basket weaving, or making of bags and other accessories as a talent can train others hence we have a self-sufficient society and community.

The government needs to create talent development centres for young people to share knowledge and train others to have a self sustaining nation that will drive economic growth through talent development. There needs to be encouragement of talent development over employment. After all not everyone can be absorbed into the market. The alternative plan of action will therefore be to have talent developed and managed properly.

A system of integrity needs to be built to ensure good governance of talent management. There should be a policy on the youth to guide on the institution that will manage the youth affairs in Kenya.

What are your views on talent driving development in Kenya? Leave your views below

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