Geopoll: Politics and the youth of Africa

At 1.5 billion, today’s global youth (aged 15 to 34 years old) is the largest in history.  They are driving changes in economic opportunities, development, and, increasingly, political systems. To better understand youth perceptions of their role in civic and political processes, we polled 3,300 youth across five sub-Saharan countries: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda. In these countries, youth account for 55, 60, 60, 53 and 68 percent of the adult population over 15 years old, respectively

GeoPoll found that despite an active and engaged youth, the youth question the accountability of their governments and the role in which they can take as political participants. They do, however, identify and value governance—whether it manifests in service delivery, free speech, or voting.

When asked to identify the biggest failure of the current government, nearly half of all participants identified corruption. This was identified as the primary concern in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda; and the second biggest issue in Nigeria and South Africa, where respondents chose unemployment as a larger concern.

When further asked if the government represents the interest of one’s community, only one-third of respondents said “no” across all countries. Ghanaian respondents responded the most positively with 79 percent saying “yes.” Results were consistent across demographic groups with both men (64 percent) and women (62 percent) saying “yes” at high rates. Similar rates were found among subsets of age brackets among youth.

Despite these concerns, youth are civically active—exercising free speech and actively participating in democratic processes. Compared to other media sources, the top choice for the daily news source for youth respondents was social media (33 percent), aside from Kenya and Ghana where TV and Radio were more popular. Two-thirds of respondents noted that they post political opinions and viewpoints on social media.

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Youth are optimistic about the role they can plan in their communities and in their government. More than 60 percent of youth polled are engaged in voluntary community service. The same proportion of respondents identified working with others in their community to help solve an issue. When asked about sentiments around the future of Africa depending on youth, 76 percent strongly agreed followed by another 14 percent who somewhat agreed.

Africa’s youth will play an increasing role in governance and civic participation. Identifying their perceptions and the best means to engage youth are critical steps to understanding the impact they can and will make in the future.

 

Gathoni Kuria

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