The Rise of the Millennial Entrepreneur in Kenya

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Within every generation, there are always many subgroups by culture, ethnicity, wealth, class, education and other factors, which makes generational generalization very difficult.” John Smart, CEO of Foresight University

From Baby Boomers and those that grew up at a time of dramatic social change, to Generation X and those that saw the dawn of the age of technology and then to the Millennials who were born into the age of information. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high globally. With an increased population, space and resources are harder to come by, let alone share – this includes jobs. Today while higher education may give someone a leg up, it is not a guarantee. The sage old advice that was driven into us by our parents of “work hard, study hard and you’ll get a job” is no longer true for everyone – or in fact even a lot of people.

A generation that has been described as lazy, narcissistic, entitled and unable to stay in one job, have also been described as the most purpose driven and potentially the most entrepreneurial of all previous generations.

Millennials – The Missing Link?

Paw Research Centre speculates, “Millennials have become more detached from major institutions such as political parties, religion, the military and marriage. As survivors of difficult circumstances that shaped their upbringings – most notably, the recession of the late 2000s – younger generations are both resilient and uncompromising in their values.

Millennials and Gen Z’s are tackling their concerns by taking socially conscious actions to protect the planet and shine a spotlight on societal issues. Regardless of an individual’s conditions, this generation has been generally influenced by an increase and fluency within communications, media, and technologies. Never has a generation been so aware of their options, thanks to the internet. Millennial and Gen Z’s ascendance into adulthood has been marked by technological transformation, financial upheaval, and political, environmental, and social movements. Through it all, they have staunchly believed in and advocated for workplace flexibility, income equality, diversity, inclusion, and a business purpose beyond the bottom line. 

The New Normal

It’s too early to know how the COVID-19 pandemic will ultimately change society. But the response of millennials and Generation Z, battle-hardened and steadfast in maintaining their values, will be key. The 2020 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey reveals a younger generation whose resilience and determination will surely shape the world that emerges. (Deloitte Global, 2020)

However, despite uncertain and discouraging conditions, Millennials and Gen Z’s express impressive resiliency and a resolve to improve the world. “As we rebuild our economies and society, business should take a note from young people when helping shape the world that emerges.” says Michele Parmelee, Deloitte global chief people and purpose officer.

Despite their own personal setbacks during the pandemic, Parmelee believes Millennials and Gen Z’s are renewing their commitment to improve society, while pushing for a world where businesses and governments do the same.

As more jobs shifted to remote work during the Covid-19 crisis, many Millennial and Gen Z employees experienced “flex work” for the first time in their careers. According to the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020, 45% of these younger employees had never worked remotely before the pandemic, compared with just a third after the onset of the pandemic.

Tom Collins, a writer at the African Business Magazine observes that at the heart of the demand for luxury is a young generation who use brands either as status symbols or to celebrate special occasions. In contrast to the older generation, social media is the primary driver of consumption, where advertisers urge younger consumers to emulate the lifestyle of celebrities and influencers. Products that highlight the lifestyle of internationally successful individuals, usually those steeped in entrepreneurial success, are highly sought after. 

Kenyan photographer extraordinaire, Mutua Matheka became the face of Hennessey after huge billboards were erected in Nairobi associating the spirit with his artistic, creative lifestyle. The “Never Stop. Never Settle” campaign highlighted eight entrepreneurs and creatives from Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, as Moët Hennessy seeks to tap into a younger generation of consumers. He states that, “COVID19 has levelled the playing field. It’s just freelancing every day. The whole world is living the way creatives usually live. It makes me feel like maybe if people paid us better and faster, we’d be ok.”

According to the 2020 Knight Frank’s Wealth Report, Kenya boosts the highest number of high net worth individuals under the age of 35 years with a net worth of at least Sh100 million ($1 million) when compared to its peers in Africa. “In Kenya, we had the highest number of Generation Z, people born after 1995, who are considered HNWIs and who are the clients of wealth advisers in Kenya. It also showed a very large number of millennials who are wealthy,” said Andrew Shirley, one of the researchers behind the Wealth Report. Over the past three years, the Kenyan economy has been struggling to recover following a bruising presidential election in 2017 that put on hold many investment decisions. This was compounded by poor weather that held back farming — which accounts for a third of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP)—last year. The report reckons that Kenya’s wealthy are increasingly becoming conservative in their investments, preferring less risky and low returns assets like bonds, gold and cash—where they pocket interest payments.

Why Youth Entrepreneurship Matters

The traditional job for life career path has become rarer and youth entrepreneurship will need to be seen as an additional way of allowing the youth into the labour market and promoting job creation. (Kew, Herrington, Litovsky, & Gale, 2013) Organisations and initiatives such as the ILO, United Nations, World Bank and YBI highlight a number of additional positive advantages to stimulating youth entrepreneurship in developing countries:

  • youth entrepreneurship is an option to create employment for the youth;
  • young entrepreneurs are more likely to hire fellow youths;
  • young entrepreneurs are particularly responsive to new economic opportunities and trends; young people are active in high growth sectors;
  • young people with entrepreneurial skills are better employees;
  • young people are more innovative and often create new forms of independent work;
  • young people who are self-employed have higher “life satisfaction;
  • entrepreneurship offers unemployed or discouraged youth an opportunity to build sustainable livelihoods and a chance to integrate themselves into society;
  • entrepreneurial experience and/or education help youth develop new skills that can be applied to other challenges in life. Non-cognitive skills, such as opportunity recognition, innovation, critical thinking, resilience, decision making, teamwork, and leadership will benefit all youth whether or not they intend to become or continue as entrepreneurs

The Millennial Resilience

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg notwithstanding, most successful founders begin their careers as devoted employees. Their start-up ideas germinate in office daydreams before blossoming into something worth pursuing outside the comforts of the company. Second, the slow recovery has stalled some would-be entrepreneurs, but 2015 was one of the strongest years this century for job and wage growth. Third, the next generation may be better prepared to start a company (or, at least, better educated in an academic setting about the challenges of such an endeavour). The millennial generation may be like a dormant volcano of entrepreneurship that will erupt in about a decade. (Thompson, 2018)

Kenyan business leaders must follow the late Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore’s example and become more involved across their departments. (Collins, 2020) Horizontal organizational structures make for more agile companies, and agility will be a must-have attribute for companies to responding to millennials’ demands as employees and consumers.

(Makarov, 2016) denotes that Kenya’s millennial and Gen Z population will shape the continent’s future. The emerging and frontier markets there will develop quickly, and investors who want to take advantage of these opportunities can’t ignore millennial influence.



Adedayo Akala, “More big employers are talking about permanent work-fromhome positions,” CNBC, May 3, 2020; Jack Kelly, “Here are the companies leading the work-from-home revolution,” Forbes, May 24, 2020

Collins, T. (2020, April 14). Safaricom: Bob Collymore’s last magazine interview. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from

Kew, J., Herrington, M., Litovsky, Y., & Gale, H. (n.d.). Generation Entrepreneur? The state of global youth entrepreneurship (Rep.). doi:

Makarov, K. (2016, April 14). Want a Great Way to Win Over Millennials in Africa’s Emerging Markets? Retrieved September 28, 2020, from

Thompson, D. (2018, December 11). The Myth of the Millennial Entrepreneur. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from


Research, K. F. (2020). The Wealth Report (pp. 90-92, Rep.). London, UK: Knight & Frank. doi:

Global, D. (2020). The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020 (Rep.). Washington, US: Deloitte. doi:


Angela Njeri is an Integrated Marketing and Communications Specialist. She has experience in integrated marketing communications, corporate and strategic communications and consumer insights for three regional companies, Angela opens the line of communication between clients, customers, and businesses to get projects done. With close to 10 years in both public and private sectors, Angela has experience in creative writing, knowledge management, client relations, public relations and partnership building. Angela is passionate about youth empowerment and is a member of the Public Relations Society of Kenya.

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