Igniting The Minds of Future Leaders

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle

~James Keller

Here’s what I recently discovered: 80% of graduates churned out every year in Kenya, lack the 21st-century skills required to survive the real world. According to World Economic Forum(WEF), research also shows that 40% of African C.E.Os find retraining necessary to retain graduate talent that joins their workforce. I was easily headed towards becoming part of these statistics, but life had other plans. This is my story:

Like any other child growing up, I was often asked the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and of course, the answers we gave to this question were grand and entertaining.

I remember vividly as my brother and I prepared for our first day of school. I must have been six and ready to take on the path towards becoming something. That was the first time my father asked me the ‘golden question.’ My brother wanted to be a pilot, and I stood proud, looked my father in the face, and bravely said, ‘when I grow up, I want to be a politician!’ He laughed a little and told us that to be what we wanted to be, we had to work hard and do well in school; that sunk in.

As I got older, I watched my responses change, but the lesson of that morning remained the same, ‘hard work pays and education is the key to success.’ This lesson filled my soul entirely.

On joining campus, I stuck to this principle. Hard work, good grades, and an honors degree were all I needed to succeed. I imagined my employer waiting for me with open arms as long as I prioritized those three elements.

Over time, the question transformed to, “where do you want to work when you graduate?” And I had some pretty ambitious answers, and rightly so because I had done the work, I was spirited, hungry, and ready to go into the real world.

It has been two years since I graduated and the reality is heartbreaking.

You turn on the news and you hear that the unemployment rate has only increased. You see college graduates sweeping the streets and hawking. The rate of depression among the youth is alarming. There are suicide reports, criminal activities involving the youth are soaring. Frustration and drug abuse is the order of the day. Graduates have become pawns in tribal politics, used by mediocre politicians to perpetrate political violence. I ask myself what went wrong? Is education not the key to success? Isn’t hard work supposed to pay?

Clearly, it is not enough to attend classes and do well in tests. The question then becomes, what more can be done?

I have been lucky to join Impact Africa Network, a startup studio in Nairobi on a mission to ensure young talented Africans have a chance to participate in the digital transformation of Africa as creators and owners. IAN at its core believes that Africans can solve African problems and provide scalable solutions. Part of the many solutions that we are creating, is one that I have the privilege to work on, The Bridge, a one of a kind program designed to mentor university students through mindset shift, entrepreneurship, and career launch strategies.

The program was inspired by the desire of Innovation Fellows at IAN to give back, having been immersed in rigorous learning, mentorship and the right mindset while in the Innovation Fellowship Program. I am excited to see how many lives we impact with this.

Our CEO, Mark Karake speaks to this intrinsic value of choosing to light other people’s candles

Looking back at that first day of school, I realize that a lot has changed. The boy who assumed that good grades are all it takes now knows this; a combination of formal education, skills, and strategic alignment is more effective.

I have the opportunity to work on the future, I am excited!

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Ecosystem Catalytic Startup Studio in Nairobi.

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