The Political Participation of Africa's Youth: Turnout, Partisanship and Protest
Author: Danielle Resnick and Daniela Casale
Size: 37 pages (0.97MB)
This paper finds that Africa’s youth tend to vote less and express a lower level of partisanship (attachment to a particular party) than older citizens. This is consistent with findings from other regions. However, Africa’s youth are not more likely to protest than older citizens: claims that disillusioned African youth will foment instability do not yet appear warranted in many of the region’s electoral democracies. Findings also raise the questions of whether the electoral process is a legitimate means of conveying young people's concerns and whether political parties are accurately representing younger citizens’ interests.
The study combines country-level variables for 19 of Africa’s more democratic countries with individual-level public opinion data from Afrobarometer survey data. It examines voter turnout in the last national elections, partisanship, and participation in protests, comparing youth (those aged 18-30) with older people.
Most African countries are grappling with a demographic ‘youth bulge': the median age of Africans is 19 years, compared with 42 years for Europeans, and the youth currently comprise 70 per cent of Africa’s population. Youth unemployment remains high in Africa, and approximately 72 per cent of Africa’s youth live on less than two dollars a day.
Most discussions of the youth bulge revolve around pessimistic and extreme scenarios, such as political violence. These outcomes tend to be associated with autocratic regimes. This paper focuses on more typical modes of political participation in Africa’s more democratic regimes.
Youth political participation in Africa, particularly in urban areas, is broadly similar to that in other regions. In comparison with older people, Africa's youth vote less and are more likely to demonstrate either no partisanship or an attachment to opposition parties rather than to incumbent parties. Further:
These findings question the legitimacy of the electoral process as a meaningful way of conveying the preferences of Africa’s youth. Other implications are that:
Resnick, D., and Casale, D., 2011, 'The Political Participation of Africa's Youth: Turnout, Partisanship and Protest', Working Paper No. 136, Afrobarometer, South Africa
Organisation: Afrobarometer, http://www.afrobarometer.org