‘Africa has awakened’: Kenya Rises to Demand Change

In recent weeks, Kenya has witnessed a rising resistance from its young population against what they perceive as overburdening taxation proposed in the country’s Finance Bill of 2024. This bill, intended to bolster government revenues, has sparked widespread concern among Kenyan youth who fear its potential impact on their already strained economic conditions.

Kenya, like many developing nations, struggles with the challenge of balancing economic growth with fiscal responsibility. However, the proposed Finance Bill 2024 has struck a nerve with young Kenyans who are already contending with high unemployment rates and rising living costs. The bill includes measures that could increase taxes on essential goods and services, potentially exacerbating the financial strain on the youth.

In response to these concerns, a powerful movement offline movement has made its way online also under the banner of #rejectfinancebill2024 and #TheGenZRevolution. This uprising was spearheaded largely by Kenya’s youth – also known as “gen z.” Through this movement, Kenyan youth are advocating for a balanced approach that ensures sustainable revenue generation without stifling economic dynamism.

Social media platforms continue to be part of the battleground where young activists mobilize, educate, and galvanize public opinion against what they see as unfair taxation policies. The movement emphasizes the importance of fiscal prudence without disproportionately burdening the most vulnerable segments of society.

Critics argue that over-taxation could stifle economic growth by reducing disposable income, discouraging consumer spending, and hindering investment. This is particularly concerning in a country where entrepreneurship and small businesses are vital to economic vitality and job creation.

Equity for Women & Girls

One contentious aspect of the Finance Bill 2024 is the proposal to introduce eco-taxation, which includes taxing imports of essential items like sanitary pads. This provision has sparked outrage among activists and young people, particularly because period poverty is already a significant issue in Kenya. Many young girls and women struggle to afford sanitary products, leading to health risks and hindering educational opportunities.

The imposition of taxes on sanitary pads undercuts activists’ efforts to address period poverty, contradicting broader social welfare goals and exacerbating inequalities. Activists argue that instead of taxing essential items, the government should explore policies that ensure greater accessibility and affordability of sanitary products for all women and girls.

The Finance Bill 2024 debate has also underscored broader political dynamics in Kenya. It highlights a growing disconnect between government policies and the aspirations of the younger generation, who constitute a significant voting bloc. This activism could potentially influence future policy decisions and electoral outcomes, as politicians increasingly recognize the power of youth voices in shaping the national agenda, since young people are the future leaders of tomorrow.

Don’t Amend. Reject.

Despite the youth’s vigorous protests, members of parliament recently voted in favor of the bill, deepening the divide between lawmakers and their constituents. In response, young people have vowed to blacklist all MPs who supported the bill, going as far as making their private phone numbers public, resulting in a barrage of messages from the public. Tragically, the protests have seen police use excessive force, leading to the deaths of two protestors— one from a live bullet and another from tear gas-related injuries. Numerous others were injured, and one police officer lost both arms. The youth have made it clear to the government that they will not stop unless the 2024 bill is rejected,Releasing a 7 Days Demonstration plan rallying under the uncompromising statement: “Don’t amend. Reject.”

Recent voting in June marked the second stage of the six stages the bill must pass through before becoming law. Human rights defenders and civil society organizations have condemned the government’s actions, accusing it of reneging on its promises to the people. This movement has been dubbed the “GEN Z REVOLUTION,” reflecting the resolve and influence of the younger generation in demanding their rights and shaping Kenya’s future.
As Kenya navigates the complexities of fiscal policy and economic development, the rejection of the Finance Bill 2024 by its youth represents a pivotal moment.

These latest protests in Kenya signal a demand for accountability, transparency, and a participatory approach to governance. Moving forward, it is imperative for policymakers to engage meaningfully with all segments of society, particularly the youth, to forge consensus on sustainable economic strategies that benefit all Kenyans.

The #rejectfinancebill2024 movement is not just about opposing taxation; it is a testament to the power of civic engagement and activism in safeguarding Kenya’s economic future. By listening to the concerns of its youth and fostering inclusive dialogue, Kenya can chart a path towards equitable growth and prosperity for all its citizens. Addressing poverty and ensuring access to essential goods must be central to these efforts, reflecting a commitment to social justice and inclusive development.

Africa is rising. The revolution is here. Africa has awakened.

Godson Salman

The Author

Godson Salman is a grassroots activist and communication expert based in Kenya. He champions human rights and stands as a frontline activist against FGM and violence against women, utilizing his talents to spark conversations and drive change. Godson is an award-winning photographer and he recently curated the 'Scars to Stars' exhibition, which highlighted the stories of resilient FGM survivors.