When Kenya attained inde­pen­dence in 1963, some of the most icon­ic inde­pen­dence lead­ers were youth below the age of 35. In 1963, Tom Mboya the Min­is­ter for Jus­tice and Con­sti­tu­tion­al Affairs was 33 years old; Samuel Ayo­do, the Min­is­ter for Local Gov­ern­ment was also 33 years old; Mwai Kiba­ki KANU’s Exec­u­tive Offi­cer was 32. Near­ly half of the oth­er inde­pen­dence cab­i­net mem­bers were either in their late thir­ties or ear­ly forties.

Six­ty years lat­er, you will have to search long and hard to find a polit­i­cal leader of nation­al stature who is below 35 years. The com­bined aver­age age of the Kenya Kwan­za and Azimio top coali­tion lead­ers is in the six­ties brack­et. Evi­dent­ly the mil­len­ni­als (born after 1981) are nowhere to be seen at the top.

Beyond our bor­ders, youth­ful lead­ers below the age of forty have led their coun­tries in times of need. Thomas Sankara one of Africa’s most icon­ic lead­ers became Pres­i­dent of Burk­i­na Faso in 1983 at the age of 34. Madagascar’s Pres­i­dent Andy Rajoeli­na became Pres­i­dent for the first time in 2009 when he was 35. French Pres­i­dent Emmanuel Macron became Pres­i­dent in 2017 when he was 40. Denmark’s Prime Min­is­ter Mette Fred­erik­sen assumed office in 2019 when she was 42 and Fin­land Prime Min­is­ter San­na Marin was 34 when she assumed office in the same year.

Kenya may not have had a young Pres­i­dent or Prime Min­is­ter but we have out­stand­ing young lead­ers in oth­er sec­tors of our society.

Joshua Oigara became KCB CEO in 2012 when he was only 37 years old. James Mwo­ria was only 30 years when he was appoint­ed CEO of Cen­tum Invest­ment Com­pa­ny, East Africa’s largest pri­vate cap­i­tal firm, not for­get­ting our top ath­letes who exhib­it great lead­er­ship and dis­ci­pline to con­quer the sports world at young age.

Many of the so called ‘Young Turks’ who played a piv­otal role in mid­wif­ing Kenya’s mul­ti-par­ty democ­ra­cy in the 90s were youth in their 30s. They include Mukhisa Kituyi and Kivutha Kib­wana. Even the likes of Raila Odin­ga, James Oren­go and Paul Muite were in their ear­ly for­ties dur­ing this peri­od. Kalon­zo Musyoka may not have been a mul­ti-par­ty fire­brand at the time but he was elect­ed to par­lia­ment in 1985 at the ten­der age of 32.  The same goes for William Ruto and Musalia Mudava­di, who were elect­ed to par­lia­ment at the ages of 31 and 29 respectively.

Most of these polit­i­cal lead­ers are still the dom­i­nant polit­i­cal play­ers in Kenya. This begs the ques­tion – are they unwill­ing to men­tor younger lead­ers or are the younger lead­ers unable to claim dom­i­nant polit­i­cal space?

I cour­te­ous­ly remind the trend­set­ters of the words of William Pow­ell who said that ‘Pow­er must be tak­en; it is nev­er giv­en.’ With the new nor­mal brought by Cli­mate Change chal­lenges lead­ing to high cost of liv­ing, it is up to the youth to believe in their own lead­er­ship, nur­ture it and exer­cise it at dif­fer­ent soci­etal lev­els. They can­not just copy and paste the lead­er­ship style and sub­stance of old­er gen­er­a­tions. They must strate­gi­cal­ly claim their space and pro­ceed to pro­vide a breath of fresh air in the country’s lead­er­ship. And for instance, if they do not hold any lead­er­ship posi­tions in polit­i­cal par­ties, some­thing is already amiss!

To the old­er gen­er­a­tion. Ulti­mate­ly, you are only as suc­cess­ful as your suc­ces­sor. Gen­er­a­tions to come shall con­sid­er it the most inge­nious task once the cur­rent lead­er­ship swal­low their self-impor­tance and mid­wife dynam­ic roles of youth in lead­er­ship. Such an inten­tion­al act shall reuni­fy the Nation, accom­mo­date young lead­ers and whisk sus­tain­able devel­op­ment for com­mon good. Think green, act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed