By Brett Davidson
Back in February 2009, the Daily Metro newspaper in Nairobi wrote about young Kenyan bloggers mobilising to try to bring about political change, inspired by US President Barack Obama’s use of the Internet during his election campaign. Disillusioned by the old guard of politicians from across the spectrum, , several web-based initiatives aimed at encouraging the youth to take an active role and bring a fresh approach to politics.
It seems this has continued. Ahead of the constitutional referendum this past summer in Kenya, the blog Kuweni Serious , produced the powerful video above, encouraging a move away from the image of young Kenyans as cynical, detached brand obsessed hedonists, and urging the youth to take a personal stake in the affairs of the country.
Months after the referendum has taken place, it is still a powerful message, and one that might well find resonance in other countries across the continent, where the youth are often dismissed by their elders as cynical and apathetic. Kuweni Serious realises that young people are not apathetic because of any inherent defects. It’s just that they have given up on their elders and don’t believe that anything positive is possible from politics as it is currently practiced.
The genius of Kuweni Serious is that it recognises that behind the apathy of youth is a frustrated idealism, and it provides ways for that idealism to be channeled constructively, by encouraging creative discussion and debate on the country’s future. Most recently, using a graffiti-like logo and comic strips, the site is asking its readers to imagine their ideal Kenya – and to let their imaginations go wild as they do: “action figures of local policemen for the kids? Roads so smooth with self-filling potholes? What do you think, what does your perfect Kenya look like? Let us know!”
The team keep a conversation going with their audience on the site, and also through their Facebook page. Their next initiative is a series of interviews with Kenya’s politicians. The first one was set to be with Deputy Prime Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Another interesting site, also aimed at generating creative political and social energy is Generation Kenya, also on facebook. This site aims to provide role models for the youth by featuring “Kenyans from all walks of life, born since 1963, who have contributed significantly to creating a better Kenya.” The intention is to offer profiles are of high quality, with well-written text accompanied by photos of the subjects taken by fine art photographer Jerry Riley.
The profiles are accompanied by other features, such as photo essays of life in Kenya, and other kinds of stories. See for example, The Gentlemen’s Club.
The energy of young tech-savvy Kenyans is most palpable at the iHub in Nairobi, which I was lucky enough to visit on a recent trip. When I was there it was full of youngsters having earnest conversations, or furiously working on their laptops while a group of visitors attended an introductory talk on Ushahidi. And since the iHub is at the top of an office block it has the most spectacular view of Nairobi. For more on this amazing space see blogging icon Ethan Zuckerman’s recent feature (in which he mentions two of my colleagues – bloggers Rebecca Wanjiku and Daudi Were).