Well Told Story’s annual State of the Youth Report, based on 2900+ interviews with a nationally representative sample of Kenya’s 15-24 year olds
How young Kenyan entrepreneurs get ahead in life
- In the past 12 months, most Kenyan youth have slipped further into poverty retorting incomlessness and the increasing costs of living as the most pressing issues in their lives;
- While hustlas (small business entrepreneurs) were not immune to the money squeeze, they were able to retain their income streams and their saving routines;
- WTS conducted an exploratory study of hustlas and discovered 5 segments – each with their own unique motivation, aspiration and values;
- Among the five segments, the ‘Hustla Has a Future’ segment, had the strongest motivation for entrepreneurial success and the most agency to take charge of their lives;
- For the past several years, WTS has been focusing on supporting hustlas through the integrated Shujaaz’s “hustla strategy” – learning along the way that financially secure youth also report improved SRH behaviours and more positive engagement with the community.
In the #Shujaaz360 post ‘The Money Squeeze’ we discussed the current financial despair of Kenyan youth and the devastating effect lack of money has on their self-narrative, their outlook on life and decisions on risky behaviours. Shujaaz’s solution to this crisis is to motivate youth to ‘hustle’ as we know that hustlas outperform average young Kenyans in terms of financial resilience, use of reproductive health services, and engagement with governance.
In other words, while the bulk of Kenyan youth struggle to secure their “daily bread,” Kenyan hustlas proudly carry extra cash, condoms and a voter card in their pockets.
So, who are these hustlas and what makes them different from typical Kenyan youth? The word “hustle” refers to a broad range of income-generating activities that sit outside the realm of formal employment. Examples of hustles include running micro-enterprises, growing and selling fruits or secondhand clothes, performing casual labour and so on.
According to recent Shujaaz studies, about 2 in 5 15-24 year olds, qualify as hustlas. This includes those who are self-employed, are casual workers or have a side job. We subdivided hustlas into five distinct segments by their attitudes towards hustling their views on life and their future aspirations – once again confirming that for youth the money element of the ‘#sexmoneyfun’ concept holds a central, critical place.
Survivalist Hustler (SH) This is the most disadvantaged segment pushed into hustling as a last resort. Recent migrants from rural to urban areas and often school dropouts, SH are driven by the need to exist; they grab onto any opportunity to make a bit of cash; their income streams are unplanned, unpredictable and unworthy of additional skill-training. SH take little pride in what they do and have no control over their destiny.
Hustle is Noble (HN) More mature and grounded by responsibilities (marriage and/or children) than SH, HN have realised that they’ve run out of options & reluctantly accept hustling as the only way forward. HN focus more on the functional (money-making) side of the hustle rather than the social status or the sense of accomplishment. Expanding their hustle is not part of the plan and HN do not invest in their hustle or in skill training; they’ve found peace and comfort in the status quo.
Placeholder Hustlers (PH) A peculiar segment driven, unlike other hustlas, by boredom and/or the pursuit of a social status rather than by the need for money. Coming from a financially secure background, PH have big dreams – mostly for a white-collar jobs –and have good chances of achieving them. While pursuing these goals and relevant education, they turn to hustling to kill time or to pick up extra cash for activities which their parents would not approve nor pay for (parties, alcohol, expensive gadgets). PH don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs and are not keen on any skill training.
Hustle as a Talent (HT) – This segment is driven by the conviction in the uniqueness of their “talent” – singing, dancing, painting, playing sports, being a fashion model, etc. HT believe they can form a successful business around this talent and are looking for role-models, mentors and networks to boost their visibility and help them succeed. Quite often, these hustlas are not taken seriously and are even stigmatized for being “different.” While passionate and creative, if not successful – HT can eventually transform into Survivalist Hustlas or the Hustle is Noble segment.
Hustle Has a Future (HHF) This is the most promising segment of young entrepreneurs driven by the desire to create a successful business and become wealthy through hard work and constant skill training. HHF are focused and consistent; they take a lot of pride in what they do. They are actively involved in the decision-making and daily running of their business. Aside from the pride in their work, what makes them stand out among other hustla segments is a definitive plan for the future and the sense of being in charge of their lives. They are empowered by the freedom and independence of being self-employed.
Hustlas’ life choices reflect the perceived stability of their core activity – the hustle – and the contribution of this to their future. Based on the findings of the Shujaaz 2017 survey, Hustle has the Future is consistently more successful than youth on average or other hustla segments when it comes to financial fitness, being protected (i.e., use of family planning services), being in charge of one’s life and positively engaging with community affairs (Table 1). The segment of survivalist hustlas, while small, has potential. However, this segment has to be inspired to look positively at opportunities in hustling and motivated to take pride in their work before they can be engaged in more practical business training.
Table 1. Hustla segments and their life choices
*Differences between average Kenyan youth and the hustla group are statistically significant at p<0.05.
While talking to hustlas, we learned how important independent income is to youth feeling empowered and in charge, to them making a plan for the future and aligning their life choices to fit this plan. In the new phase on the hustla strategy, Well Told Story will be offering young entrepreneurs more opportunities to grow their business and feel proud of their success by offering youth positive role models, mentors and the networks they can rely on for advice, support and connections.