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Wednesday 26 June 2019
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Youth Voter Apathy

At least 20 African countries are going to elections in 2019, five of them are in the SADC region Botswana (October), Malawi (May), Mozambique (October), Namibia (October), and South Africa (May) all of these countries are heading to the polls in 2019, and all of these countries have a large youth demographic.
In regards to elections, a common critique is that youth turnout is high at rallies, youth harbour free shirts, popularise chants yet do not have the same energy on Election Day.
African youth are at the intersection of dealing with the remnants of colonial institutions and its impact on our economies, are conversant in global culture, are then anticipated to be innovative due to technological advances and then use those inventions to prop up a hostile economy with political elites as gatekeepers.
From experience, Youth Voter Apathy is caused by reforms moving at a glacial pace in public service and the deliberate stifling of youth potential.
It is assumed if you mentor enough young people to aspire to implement change in the public sector, then the potential ripple effects of all this will lead to wide scale societal change.
Post conference and fellowships, the challenge then becomes being unable to implement the knowledge they’ve gained, not from a lack of effort, but they go back to the same societies that excluded them with the dominant public service culture forcing assimilation.
Viable employment is largely in the bureaucracy, the security forces, or other organs of the state.
Control of the state allows the ruling party to control access to these jobs, with complaints of party membership cards or affiliation needed to gain access to state resources, including jobs.
A great deal of development funding is now being shepherded towards youth leadership development programs(Young African Leaders Initiative(YALI) Mandela Washington Fellows, Apolitical Academy); these programs are designed to be leverage points in which systemic change can be applied.
In systems thinking a leverage point is a place in a system’s structure where a solution element can be applied.
It’s a low leverage point if a small amount of change/ force causes a small change in system (society) behaviour.
It’s a high leverage point if a small amount of change/ force causes a large change in system (society) behaviour.
There are examples of high and low leverage points in African History, a characteristic of  successful  youth movements is how organic they are , they are never organized seeking  to make history.
An example of this is June 16 1976; a youth led high leverage point in South African history.
The march was intended to be a nonviolent boycott of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools, the images of teenagers being murdered for refusing to be taught a curriculum; in a language, which was intended to stunt their intellect showed tremendous self-awareness in spite of, quite literally, being taught otherwise, this also meant the Apartheid governments propaganda machine couldn’t counter what the world saw.
An example of Low leverage points in youth led movements is the advent of youth parliaments.
Youth parliaments were created to mirror parliament, and ensure policies are youth centric at the highest decision making level.
Optically, it worked…for adult parliament, not so much for the youth populace, misappropriated funds are common leading to loss of credibility. There is however a grey area in quantifying a high or low leverage point, there are leverage points that are saddled between being high and low such as the Arab Spring.
According to a UNDP 2016 report, since the Arab Awakening many youth in the region have remained politically active through “political movements” instead of engaging with and in political parties.
Young men and women are traditionally active politically in universities (when allowed) but are very often disillusioned with political leadership and political institutions and excluded from policy development.
As a result, political activism of youth is not organized according to formal groupings.
Civil society movements can be more powerful than public sector backed initiatives.
What gives political leaders and movements’ credibility, beyond their track record and capabilities, is civil society endorsement.
This sizeable absolutely disenchanted youth populace suffers from high unemployment rates, these countries have stagnant if not declining economies from a lack diversification, there’s been under investment in the education of the youth, stunting of their career advancement and no funding for their social entrepreneurship ventures.
Deeping inequality levels are indicative of the crisis that youth in these countries face, the injustice stems from youth being seen as a threat as opposed to actually being a threat, in spite of that,  as a  marginalized group, African youth are  still expected to not only survive but thrive in these conditions.




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