For many Hong Kong students, the idea of migrating to live and work in Africa might sound unlikely. But after spending six days in Kenya, ten students from Lok Sin Tong Yu Kan Hing Secondary School found that working in the East African nation is actually a real possibility.
The students who visited Kenya for six days at the end of February, were part of the “Hong Kong Youth New Runway Programme”. The programme runs tours that aim to show local secondary school students what opportunities for future development lie in other countries around the world, and inspire them to a consider their futures beyond Hong Kong.
The tour of Kenya took them to see Chinese businesses and investment across the country, as well as the local environment and customs. The six day visit managed to raise the student’s awareness of the business and potential employment opportunities in Kenya, and some students were open to the possibility of coming back to Kenya in the future.
Vincent Leung, 16, was one of the students on the trip, and he said the trip made him think beyond Hong Kong for his future development:
“There is less space for us to grow in Hong Kong because the city is already so well developed,” said Vincent. “Therefore, even if I am very educated and highly skilled, in Hong Kong I cannot achieve my full potential,” he added, “Because Kenya is still developing, they will require a lot of skilled workers.”
Vincent thinks there will be many opportunities for him to return to Kenya in the future, although he admits there are some challenges he would need to overcome first. “I think there are many cultural differences. In Hong Kong our pace of life is very fast, but people do things slower here,” he said. “The language barrier is also an issue, a lot of people here don’t speak English, so communicating will be hard.”
He said the first steps to tackling these challenges will be to learn the local language, Swahili, and getting used to the local cuisine.
“We might not want to leave the comforts of Hong Kong. But if we can be brave and take the first steps out, then we can seize a good chance for personal development,” he said.
Likewise, Wendy Fong Wing-yee, 17, said most of the media coverage she’s seen about Africa has been negative, but now realises that the country is not as undeveloped as she had imagined:
“Lot of things are slowly developing here, and I never thought there would be so many Chinese businesses setting up here,” she said.
“At first I thought after graduation I would just stay in Hong Kong or on the Mainland, but after coming here, I realised there a lot of other countries I can choose from, like Kenya,” Wendy said.
Although Wendy would consider returning to explore her future in Kenya, she is concerned about how her family might respond to such a decision. “My family might not agree with me coming to Kenya as it is on the other side of the world, and it is very far for us,” Wendy explained.
“My family might want to stay in a more comfortable environment, but I am the kind of person that likes to travel and see new places,” Wendy added.
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Nicole Kong Hui-man, 14, also recognises the opportunities available in Kenya, but she said she would not be interested in returning to Kenya in the future.
“I was raised in Hong Kong and had my education there, so I think I will pursue my future development in Hong Kong,” she said. “I think Kenya is ok in terms of safety and security, but the hygiene levels are a concern for me, and the food here is not really to my taste,” she explained.
Regardless, Nicole said her perception of Kenya had changed significantly, from a highly impoverished nation to one that is developing rapidly. “I think Hongkongers have some misunderstandings about Africa,” said Nicole, “When I get back to Hong Kong I plan to share with my family and friends what it’s really like in Kenya.”
Young Post's trip was sponsored by the Belt and Road Hong Kong Centre.