Kenya's Gen Z inspire youthful nationalism, zeal across Africa

Youthful demonstrators match along the streets of Nakuru City during the anti-tax country-wide protests on June 20, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Kenya’s anti-tax protests have reverberated across the African continent, triggering a renewal of nationalism among youth, while sending cold chills down the spine of leaders accused of running down their governments.

Running under a narrative of being leaderless, tribeless and fearless, the young adults took to the streets to register their disapproval of punitive tax measures proposed in the unpopular Finance Bill 2024.

Armed with resolve and smartphones, the Gen Zs -who profess no affiliation to political parties - de-platformed elected leaders before taking over the conversation. Days of planning and mobilisation, on X and Tiktok, manifested in the street protests that began on June 18.

Over 40 people lost their lives and hundreds more were injured, forcing President William Ruto to reject a Bill he and his party had fought for.

Observers opine that the aftermath of the youth-led Kenyan protests will include a reinvention of the conduct of government business, and a possible adoption of Kenya’s protest model as a template by peers across the world.

“What the protesters have been able to do, in terms of organization, is remarkable. How they formed a movement that is so large, engaged and leaderless, and yet able to produce a clear set of demands is so incredible,” said Stephen Jackson, the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

This ‘win’ has prompted African youth to demand better governance from their leaders. 


Nigerian youth have planned 10-day nationwide protests starting August 1. The youth known as ‘Soro Seke’, or Speak Up generation, are angry at President Bola Tinubu’s leadership for failing to keep food, fuel, and education within the reach of citizens. They also want a downward review of politicians’ salaries, judicial and electoral reforms.

The ‘Soro Seke’ were behind the famous EndSARS protests that rocked Nigeria in 2020 as citizens stood up against police brutality and extortion. Just like the Kenyan Gen Z, this group is running under the narrative of no tribe, region, or religion; the three biggest factors in the West African nation’s politics.

Fearing what may be on the way, President Tinubu on Tuesday announced new policies, including the removal of import tariffs on food.

Peter Obi, a presidential contender in the last election who found favour with the youth, wrote to his supporters, commonly known as Obidients, saying:

“Nigerian political leaders, should take a strong lesson from the recent Kenyan experience. We, the Nigerian leaders, must abandon our detrimental habits, stop the feasting, and start making sacrifices for the greater good of our suffering masses.”


Elsewhere, in neighbouring Ghana, parliamentarians pondered over the events in Kenya and compared them to their own economic situation which has forced the government to default on debt repayments.

Coincidentally, a group of Ghanaian legislators were trapped in the Kenyan Parliament during the June 25 ‘Occupy Parliament’ move by angry protesters. The six included Emmanuel Akwasi, Edwin Lante, Sylvester Tetteh, Thomas Nyarko, Mohammed Taferu, and parliamentary clerk Anita Papafio who were in Kenya for a benchmarking exercise.

“God saved us from a very dangerous situation. What we saw in Kenya was frightening,” said Ghanaian MP Edwin Lante.

Ghanaian youth have acquired renewed vigor as they head to the December 7 polls. Some of the issues aggravating their disquiet include high fuel prices, widespread corruption, high inflation, and poverty and wastefulness in government.


Across the border in Uganda, the protests have become a major topic of discussion on both new and traditional media. Even though there are no known plans for protests against the Yoweri Museveni-led government, opinion has been divided among the Ugandan people about the gains made from the Kenyan protests as compared to the human and financial cost.

“Congratulations to Gen Z and all Kenyans for asserting your sovereignty! Finance Bill 2024 trashed…Gen Z and all Kenyans must remain vigilant. No turning back, take charge! I love Kenyans. Tutafuata nyayo (We’ll follow your footsteps),” said Uganda opposition politician and Museveni’s arch nemesis Kizza Besigye.

In Tanzania, the events have provided more impetus for the ongoing push to have a new constitution that safeguards the human and civil rights of citizens to provide a greater space to demand for more accountability from the government that has been under the Chama Cha Mapinduzi since independence.