Half of young Africans want to leave their countries in next three years

Wednesday June 29 2022

A new survey shows many African youth are unhappy with the direction their countries are headed. FIEL PHOTO | NMG


“Kenya is a difficult place to live in,” laments Eric Mokaya, 33, a Kenyan who resides in Sweden. “To get anything, even your rights, you have to know someone or use money. Getting a job is hard even when you have the experience and education,” he adds.

Mokaya left Kenya eight years ago, first for an academic exchange programme, then in search of work opportunities after failing to secure a job locally.

“I like it here,” he says of Sweden. “You don’t have to know anyone to get services, and you can easily find a job if you have what it takes.”

“I miss home, the food and the hospitality of the Kenyan people, and eventually I’ll return.

‘‘But I must secure my future first and I think my best chance is here,” Mokaya told The EastAfrican.

Mokaya’s sentiments resonate with the findings of the Young African Survey (AYS) 2022 by the South African charity Ichikowitz Family Foundation.


The survey done in 15 countries including Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda suggests that more than half of young Africans will leave their countries in the next three years in search of better job and education opportunities, 27 percent of whom have no intention of ever returning.

Read: Take the high road and reap that demographic dividend

Right direction

This is occasioned by growing pessimism in the last two years over prospects on the continent, with 68 percent of youth aged between 18 and 24 saying they don’t think their countries are headed in the right direction anymore, an 11 percent rise since 2020.

Based on the survey, youth living in Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa have grown the most pessimistic in the period, most of whom cited Covid-19 deaths, economic difficulty, political instability and conflicts for their waning confidence in the future of their nations.

This has triggered a situation Ivor Ichikowitz, the chairman of the foundation, described as “bigger than a brain drain,” where majority of African youth are convinced that they can only secure a better future for themselves if they leave their countries.

Read: Brain drain? Just give them incentives to stay

Seeking opportunities

“I believe I will be more skilled and better placed to get a well-paying job after studying in the United States rather than an African university,” said Felix Ouma, 24, a Kenyan who is set to leave for a master’s degree programme in the US this July under the Kenya Airlift Programme.

Ouma told The EastAfrican that he has not been able to secure a job after graduating from university, and has since relentlessly pursued opportunities to advance his studies abroad.

The EastAfrican has learnt that there is a huge backlog of visa applications at the American embassy in Nairobi as many Kenyans seek to pursue opportunities abroad.

“I would leave in a heartbeat,” said Mercy Chepkemoi, 22, as she cites frustrated efforts to secure employment despite being well educated.