What you need to know:
- Many young people are stressed, depressed, indebted, and alienated
- The promise of a reward for hard work has been broken, leaving only an uncertain future
Gen Zs are famed for their over-ambitious nature. They are disruptors who approach life with great optimism, and a desire to achieve all the good things in life as early as in their twenties. But life doesn’t follow a straight path, and challenges can appear at any point in life and slow you down.
While the current generation expects to start living luxurious lives immediately after graduating, high rates of unemployment, a shrinking economy and the rising cost of living combine to present a less pleasant reality, leaving them nodding along to Tupac Shakur’s mantra – reality is wrong, dreams are for real. Even so, a man must dream. These four Gen Zs are part of a large pool of young Kenyans who admit they are living lives that are discordant with their childhood expectations.
Faith Chepkirui, 23
Librarian and crotchetier
“If I had just half a million shilling, I would be living my dream life. I would use that amount as capital for the crocheting business I would like to start. I have always had a desire to transition from Records Management, which is what I studied in college, and pivot to the fashion world. My dream is to head a successful Africa designs and fabrics crochet store.
In my ideal life, I would be married with four children or more, depending on my financial situation. I would be living in the outskirts of Nairobi, practicing large scale farming and homeschool my children.
In the real life, though, I am a graduate who is looking a job, and does crocheting full time. For me, getting a job would mean being able to finance my dream of joining the fashion industry. If I were to get a job in records management, for which I am well qualified, I would expect an entry level pay of at least Sh70,000.
Just like many young people, I used to think life was smooth sailing. I thought that as long as I completed my education and graduated, I would get a good job, work for about five years, then start a business.
But as things stand, and considering the bad economy, I am planning to have the business up and running after two years. Within the same timeframe, I’d like to get married, and then welcome children after three years in the union.
I have come to terms with the reality that comes much later for most young people. Education is no longer the key to life. Now, one’s skills and connections are more valuable. I have accepted the fact that it is fine not to get a job in the field you studied. In the past, graduates were sure to find good jobs and achieve financial success as long as they went to school, but that doesn’t happen anymore.
I need money to actualise my dreams, and I know that my life may not turn out as expected.
Wesley Masongo, 24
President, Riara University Students Union
I have very big ambitions. One day, I would like be president of this country and have my name written in the history books as a transformational leader. I am working to realise that goal and it's not a question of if or would, but when. It is a matter of time before I lead this country.
I want to have a good life, where I can acquire anything I want. I don’t want a scenario where my children will be asking me for something and as a father, I am unable to provide. I would like to make enough money to be able to cater for all my needs such that money is not among my problems.
My perfect future would be characterised by a wife, three children and homes in multiple towns in Kenya. I'd love to build an empire. That's my dream but the reality is that it might take anyone roughly 200 years to have such. Most empires are started by fathers and inherited by future generations.
I do not want to be an employee. I prefer venturing into business. How much money I would like to make as turnover in my first business? I'd say Sh100,000 for a start. But if I was to have a change of heart and agree to join employment, I would like a salary of Sh950,000 to sustain my dream life.
As a young person in university, I am enduring many challenges, and the skyrocketing cost of living is making things worse. I need money for my school fees, to undertake small projects and invest in my side-hustles.
My other want, currently, is emotional support. Sometimes, as a young man trying to establish himself, you feel a lot of pressure. I believe a man in this journey should have a woman who will always be there, holding his hand and directing him. But sadly, that comes at a cost because most girls love moneyed men. What makes this need more urgent is the dwindling support from parents, as they believe I am now an adult and should therefore be independent.
There is what we want in life and there is what life gives us. Sometimes, what I want is not best for me. That's a harsh reality. The economy is not inspiring for a young, ambitious man like me. Whereas it was easy to establish a business and build monopoly in the past, nowadays it is hard because of cut-throat competition and high taxes.
I think lack of adequate finances will be one of my biggest stumbling blocks. For now, I am focusing on what I need to survive, not what I want.
I try to place my happiness and mental health first. All is vanity in the end. It's never that serious.
Brian Akatsa, 24
Monitoring and evaluation officer
I want to amass wealth. Not just any type of wealth, but generational wealth. I want to have multiple streams of income and to acquire assets around the country and even abroad.
Prospectively, I am looking at living in the countryside. I believe in family, so a wife and four children will do it for me. By the time I have them, I'll have clinched a job, and be in top management and driving a Mercedes. I will build my own home and I want to also be making at least Sh400,000 per month in the next five years to fuel this dream life.
Currently, what I make is sustainable, but I have to practise strict financial discipline and stick to my budget. As much as the cost of living is high, I budget for savings because I know that if you save now it will save you later. As a young person, new clothes, travelling and ability to attend music concerts is at the top of my list of wants. I love music.
I think the older generation had it easier when it came to living their dreams since they had a much more stable economy that was growing. They actualised their ambitions because when they finished campus, the rate of unemployment was not as bad. There were more opportunities back then compared to now when the economy is shrinking.
Ever since I became an adult, there are some realities I have come to accept. One is that you are not going to get that posh life, so you must learn to live within your means. This is hard to do in light of social media pressure where you see your peers driving in their early 20s.
The harder you work and the more money you make, the closer you get to realising your dreams. Unfortunately, not all dreams are meant to come true.
There is a big disconnect between one’s dreams and the reality for the younger generation, who tend to be more innovative and open minded but, are often not given enough support to turn their dreams into reality.
Further, the business environment is not conducive for the youth especially those with no ready capital or regular income. This is a perfect recipe for disaster. Young people feel like everything is against them.
You cannot put a price on your happiness, but per month, my dream life would cost about Sh1 million. One of the biggest realities is that the economy can get worse, so much that my income won't be enough for me to achieve or sustain my dreams.
Christabel Nyang’ate, 24
Sales agent and TV show host
I have a fiery ambition whose embers have never died down despite the fact that I had to drop out of campus as a civil engineering student due to financial constraints. It would cost me Sh500,000 to fulfil that academic dream.
Media, acting and comedy have always been among my passions. I dream of someday being featured in TV shows and in films. I want to achieve my dreams within the next five years. I know it is hard but I will trust the process.
In future, I want to be making Sh150,000 a month so that I can sustain my lifestyle and withstand economic shocks. My dream is to buy a piece of land, build a home, keep livestock and have a small farm.
I plan to do all this with my husband to be. This is a dream I would want him to share. If the money I'll be making will be enough, I will buy land in Nairobi or go back home. Life is not as easy as we expect. If it were so, I would have preferred to study, get a job and then get married. But now things have followed a different course.
Things are currently thick. The salary I get of Sh20,000 is not sustainable, and I don’t think the pay will even be enough to support my dreams. Considering the harsh economy, I can’t even save with that salary. A decade ago, someone earning that amount would have been at least comfortable, but now, it is so little.
It will cost more than a million shillings a month for me to live my dream life. This would take approximately five years of blood, sweat and tears to accomplish.