Kenya Gen Zs rely on smartphones, TikTok to organise protests

  • As protests escalate in Kenya in response to government plans to introduce sweeping tax hikes, young Kenyans turn to social media to mobilise.
  • TikTok is being used to organise demonstrations and protestors calling the tax bill to be scrapped live stream action across Nairobi.
  • Kenyan parliament is likely to pass the bill with some amendments as it is heading for a third reading next week.

Facing the prospect of rampant over-taxation as part of an incoming finance bill being steamrolled through the country’s parliament, young people in Kenya have taken to the streets of Nairobi to protest the government’s plan.

The grassroots demonstrations, backed by opposition parties, were organised primarily using smartphones and social media, as thousands of young Kenyans formed the basis of protestors. Dubbing themselves collectively as “Gen Zs,” protestors primarily use TikTok to mobilise and amplify their voices.

“This level of organisation is extraordinary. This level of planning that these young people have; the use of technological tools has been exceptional,” said CNN correspondent Larry Madowo reporting from Nairobi during the first day of the “occupy parliament” protest.

Among the scenes of peaceful protestors chanting and holding up signs, and the Kenyan police firing tear gas canisters and pressure hoses at the crowds, smartphones are a consistent sight as Gen Z protestors livestream their activism to the world.

There are now fears spreading on social media that the Kenyan government may attempt to block the internet in the country in order to halt protest organisations. Similar to what the Egyptian government did in 2011 to halt protestors using Facebook to mobilise during the country’s revolution that year.

Dealing with a steep budget deficit, the government of Kenya is set to introduce a new finance bill that will steeply increase taxes across the East African nation with the aim of raising nearly $3 billion.

Despite widespread and unrelenting protests in the streets of Kenya, parliament has sailed through the second reading of the proposed Finance Bill 2024, receiving 204 votes in favour against 115 against it.

The bill is heading for a third reading, set to take place on 25th June.

According to law firm Cliff Dekker Hofmeyr, the bill proposes to introduce a tax on owning motor vehicles, increase items that VAT must be paid on including bread, increased taxation on a number of digital content like entertainment services, digital services like ehailing and food delivery companies, increasing tax compliance rates across the country, and many, many other changes in hopes to expand revenue collection from Kenyan citizens from 16 percent of the GDP to 20 percent.

In response to the proposed changes, protestors say that the new tax regulations will only worsen the country’s cost of living crisis. Critics of the bill have said that it must be scrapped altogether instead of amended. Hundreds of protestors have been arrested despite demonstrations continuing to be peaceful.

[Image – David Peterson from Pixabay]


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