While youth have comprised the bulk of recruits to violent extremist groups, they are also disproportionately affected by violent extremism. Al Shabaab in Kenya and Boko Haram in Nigeria have capitalized on grievances of deprivation and disenfranchisement to offer the illusion of solutions, all while sowing discord and further violence. However, both countries have a vibrant civil society landscape where youth are working toward economic, political, and social change to prevent violent extremism.
History has shown that, although they comprise thevast proportion of victims of violence, young people have also made up the bulk of recruits to militaries and militant groups around the world. This is particularly true for violent extremist groups, where recruitment focuses predominantly on individuals between 15 and 30 years of age. Kenya and Nigeria in particular have experienced high levels of violent extremist violence over the past years, perpetrated chiefly by Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, respectively. Within these groups, youth are specifically targeted for recruitment, often capitalizing on grievances related to actual and perceived relative deprivation, disenfranchisement, and a lack of opportunities, to which groups like Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab seemingly provide quick solutions. Yet young people also play pivotal roles asleaders in articulating and working toward the achievement of economic, political, and social change. Kenya and Nigeria both benefit from a vibrant youthled civil society landscape, whose expertise is central to building and promoting resilient communities and countering violent extremism (CVE) in both countries.