Africa has endured and struggled to establish robust and legitimate democracies over the years which have had a negative impact on development in some countries. The elections in some of Africa’s countries are only just a “formality,” as Rwanda’s Kagame put it.
Over the years, there has been one group which has been marginalized in terms of public affairs and carving out the destinies of certain African countries. The youth in Africa has been a victim of voter apathy, and have considered taking part in democratic activities a s a waste of time. In developed countries, they have experienced problems with youth voter apathy but the situation seems to be improving as seen with the recent elections in Britain and South Korea where the youth voter turnout was very high and had a palpable effect in determining who won and who did not.
Many a time, the youth have been used as pawns by certain politicians in order to advance the specific agendas of those politicians. The youth have suffered at the whims of politicians who harbor malicious machinations on how to stay in power and ensure regime survival. This makes the youth think that their role is not to decide the fate of the nation through clean democratic processes. What is inculcated in those youths is that elections are merely a futile exercise, and only that an iron fist will deliver that which is wrongly envisaged. This makes voter turnout to be very low and only legitimacy crises ensue.
Robert Mugabe, the nonagenarian Zimbabwean president, is the poster boy for Africa’s ageing leaders.
Young people must not clash with other young people in order to heighten the interests of the older generation, a generation that neglects the needs and wants of those very same young people. What has been cultivated over the years is the notion that young people must be patient and that they are leaders of tomorrow, when in fact the youth are today’s leaders. The youth have vast potential in making Africa a bastion of economic excellence and empowerment.
Of importance to note is how there is an unprecedented youth population increase in the world. And the proliferation is extremely notable in Africa. With over 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world. The youth are the anchor of economic activity. And for that to successfully be realized, those in office need to implement legislature and other policies that unleash the full potential in youth. Hence the youth must vote for those whom they feel and whom they know will deliver their election promises and unlock great economic opportunities. The youth in Africa continues to be ravaged by high unemployment, disease, systemic poverty and lack of education.
It is often said that those who do not vote are the ones who elect leaders who preside over bad governance. If one takes an example in Zimbabwe, the ruling party youths vote in their large numbers while the remaining youths think that the best choice is not to vote. If those who do not vote also turn out in their large numbers to vote, real change in thev positive direction would be felt.
Youth participation in other African countries has been greatly improving . There have been some youth initiatives for example the Y’en a marre (Enough is Enough) movement in Senegal or the ‘Youth Acting For Change’ programme in Mali, Togo, and Burkina Faso. These have an aim in giving the youth their voice, which is highly commendable. More efforts still need to be done in other African countires where youth participation is agonizingly low.
The future of Africa is clutched in the hands of the young people. The more they actively participate in the democratic processes of their respective nations, the more Africa develops at large.