Young Kenyans to Watch in 2020

  • Kenya witnessed a remarkable 2019, with several industry shapers scaling to heights that placed the country on the world map.

    Some took our breath away with their poise, while others simply kick-started movements that touched countless lives.

    A handful of young Kenyans grabbed their moments of truth, to pull feats that made the world take notice. 

    This group of remarkable youthful men and women have ensured that the country’s future is set for great and wonderful things, ranging across multiple fields such as politics, media, entertainment, technology, science, religion as well as sports. 

    Here’s a look at some of Kenya’s youngest and brightest, who took the year by storm.

    Michael Olunga

    The mercurial striker has set the Japanese J2 League alight, to put it mildly. His goal tally for Kashiwa Reysol is unrivalled even by the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, having netted 8 goals in a single game to lead his side to a stunning 13-1 win! 

    Kenyan footballer Michael Olunga plays for Japanese club Kashiwa Reysol

    The Harambee Stars striker was pivotal in securing the national team’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) for the first time in 15 years, after netting goals against rivals Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, and applying pressure on Ghanaians forcing them into an own goal in an epic match at Kasarani.  

    During the continental event, the Technical University of Kenya (TUK)-educated engineer scored two of Harambee Stars’ three goals in Egypt.

    On November 14, Olunga scored Kenya’s solitary goal in the one-all draw against Egypt in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers as the national team angle for a back-to-back AFCON qualification. 

    The 25-year-old has consistently displayed a fighting spirit and there is no sign he will stop soon.

    Mutula Kilonzo Jnr 

    Following in the footsteps of his late father, the young senator grabbed the headlines for his no-nonsense approach when it comes to interrogating top government officials linked to corrupt dealings.

    He made the list simply for his tenacity when it comes to championing for the rights of the everyday citizens during Senate hearings. 

    “What your parents have can never define you...Keep a straight focus, work extra hard, and have a positive attitude in whatever you do,” he once stated while speaking at Starehe Boys Centre.

    Throughout his term, the senator has emerged as a fierce critic of corruption in various arms of the government, leading to his recognition as a vocal member of the Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

    Johnson Sakaja

    The Nairobi senator needs little introduction, having championed countless efforts to secure a future for the youth in terms of employment.

    Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja

    Notably, the fearless legislator openly went against President Uhuru Kenyatta in September 2019 when he initiated a court process seeking to nullify the appointment of former Othaya MP Mary Wambui, as the board chairperson of the National Employment Authority, a body he had helped form.

    The vocal senator expressed his disappointment in how the Executive had been slow in creating the employment opportunities he envisaged, which could potentially help Kenyan youths get paid internships and better their lives.

    "There are many young Kenyans who have distinguished themselves in various fields and they deserve to be given first priority," he once stated.

    Larry Madowo

    His meteoric rise to the very top in the field of journalism has provided inspiration for countless aspiring scribes. 

    Kenyan journalist Larry Madowo

    On April 9, 2019, the former BBC News Africa business editor was named among the 2019-2020 Knight-Bagehot Fellows at Columbia University. 

    Not forgetting his feature presentation on the Chinese-built railway in Kenya won the Daily Journalism (Single Report) category at the 2019 Association of International Broadcasting Awards on 6th November 2019 in London. 

    A titan in every sense of the word.

    Wanuri Kahiu 

    It’s safe to say that this remarkable woman put Kenya on the map, in film and entertainment. 

    Wanuri Kahiu, a Kenyan film director, producer and author.

    The film director, producer, and author was the toast of the town back in October 2019, when her feature film, Rafiki, that lifted the lid on the hidden plight of Kenya’s LGBTQ+ community, bagged two awards at the Africa Movies Academy Awards 2019 (AMAA).

    Never one to shy away from sensitive topics afflicting our society, the gifted writer has used her platform to help budding actors hone their craft.

    “There is a saying that when you ban something you make it more popular, but I think that the truth is we are disappointed, we made this film for a Kenyan audience,” she stated in reference to her film which sparked a national conversation after the Kenya Film Classification Board banned its screening.

    Sarah Momanyi 

    Age is nothing but a number, and thanks to Kipchoge, it is now very clear that no human is limited. This is why we had no issues with including a 13-year-old on the list. 

    The phenomenal young girl has won two national chess championships in Kenya, having got the better of all competitors in her age bracket for two years in a row. 

    Despite her humble upbringing in the Mukuru kwa Njenga slum, the chess wizard has risen into one of the continents’ most revered players.

    Sarah came into the limelight in August 2019, when her chance to participate in the African Youth Chess Championships in Namibia was put in jeopardy, exposing Kenya’s stifling bureaucracy in the issuance of birth certificates.

    The student at Imara Daima Adventist Academy has bagged all these achievements with a backdrop of being abandoned by both her birth parents. In an interview with The Washington Post, her grandmother revealed how her alcoholic mother tried to sell her off to feed her addiction. 

    Brigid Kosgei 

    This phenomenal Kenyan lady set the world alight with unparalleled sporting in 2019. 

    Brigid Kosgei, Kenyan marathon runner who won the 2018 and 2019 Chicago Marathons.

    The 25-year-old marathoner ran a time of 2:14:04 in the 2019 Chicago Marathon, shattering Paula Radcliffe's 16-year-old record by 81 seconds. 

    Earlier in the year, she became the youngest winner when she achieved a time of 2:18:20 in the London Marathon.

    Wawira Njiru

    This budding young entrepreneur, human nutritionist, and philanthropist is living well beyond her tender age.

    Wawira Njiru became the first person to win the Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership late in 2018

    The Food 4 Education executive runs the organization that cooks, prepares and distributes nutritious meals, at subsidised prices to thousands of underprivileged school children across the country.

    Wawira won the Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership late in 2018 and her star has been on an upward trajectory ever since, with her projects impacting countless lives.

    “I wish we could go into every person’s home and make sure that the kids have a really safe environment and an opportunity to have food every day, but we can’t. What we can do is make schools, which are central places, safe places where they can access food every time they want, and where they can even grow their own food,” she once stated.

    This young group of exceptional Kenyans have been relentless in pursuing greatness in their respective fields in 2019.