Perspectives: Building foundations of youth in elections and governance


Africa’s youth constitute an important group whose demographic superiority, if harnessed, could determine the outcome of elections and the quality of leadership and governance across the continent.

Despite this demographic dominance, participation by African youth in key political processes is either low or negative.

In order to alter the current trajectory of Africa’s political economy and engage with youth to build the foundations of future leadership, the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) Africa is one of the key organisations building the capacity of youth in electoral and governance processes.

 The delivery approach is in the form of a Youth Programme on elections and governance.

The youth programme seeks to ensure that Africa’s youth embrace a deeper appreciation of how they are being used by the older generations in subverting the electoral process and that this behaviour is against their interests.

Furthermore, MINDS’ youth programme encourages higher levels of youth participation in and ownership of the outcomes of elections.

The MINDS Youth Programme in Elections and Governance is one of the four core programmes implemented by the organisation.

Active youth participation in governance and ongoing engagement with leadership and governance processes can potentially hasten the transformation of the continent to realise the socio-economic and political progress needed to improve the conditions and living standards of African society.

The youth programme has been specifically designed to strengthen the quality of youth engagement in the electoral and political governance processes in Africa. 

MINDS also builds the capacity of youth through the youth dialogues by bringing a pan-African connectivity that ensures a cross-border sharing of ideas and experiences to develop methodologies that are distinctly African.

The think tank believes that the quality of leaders chosen by society forms the bedrock of the type of society that emerges.

Through the youth programme, we challenge African youth to link the creation of the Africa of their dreams, with the kind of leaders they help choose through the electoral processes, with pressure brought to bear on ensuring accountability to campaign promises and commitments.

MINDS provides civic education on elections and governance to African youth through regional training workshops.

The aim of the MINDS regional workshops is to create awareness, enhance knowledge and develop relevant skills in electoral and governance processes and leadership among participants, for them to effectively communicate and apply these skills in influencing and mobilising other youth to actively participate in the processes and other community and national development activities.         

The content covered in these workshops familiarises African youth with electoral and governance processes relevant to their countries.

Participants are equipped with knowledge and skills to enable them to mobilise peers and meaningfully participate in electoral processes.

With an understanding of governance systems, African youth can make informed choices regarding how, or if, these systems can benefit their quest for a continent they envision.

Since capacity development is a continuous process, the MINDS youth dialogue has been made an annual event that gathers young African leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to the development of Africa, practical involvement in elections and governance and the ability to mobilise other youth towards a set goal.

At each dialogue, the programme facilitates conversations between 100 or more youth, drawn from across the continent, and experienced African leaders with the aim of exploring the kind of Africa the youth can aspire to create for themselves.

Topics addressing the role and impact of youth in elections and governance on the continent are researched prior to the dialogue and discussed during the proceedings at the event.

The global space is dominated by growing social and online processes and tools for which the youth have higher and better levels of competence than older generations and it is evident that countries that have created space for the youth to participate are achieving better levels of innovation and hence better technological and economic development.

Through their networks and application of information and communication technologies, the youth can play a significant role in the transformation of the continent.

As part of strengthening the capacity of youth in Africa, MINDS has a scholarship programme for leadership development that attracts a pool of young leaders committed to facilitating greater cooperation between African countries that will play a critical role in achieving the continent’s future success.

The MINDS Scholarship Programme for Leadership Development in Africa was successfully launched in 2017, bringing to realisation our vision of developing young leaders who have a continent-wide development mindset and leaders who can facilitate greater cooperation between African countries.

The scholarship programme enables African students to study in an African country other than their home country and in this way immerse themselves in the richness and diversity that the country and its communities have to offer.

By broadening access to education, we see the expansion of openness to ideas and the creation of a network of like-minded leaders who will help promote the performance and tangible progress of our continent.

There is no doubt that a more integrated African economy on a global scale will accelerate growth, generate positive outcomes, and benefit all its communities.

 Through tailored leadership development activities, the MINDS scholarship programme aims to nurture leaders who have a continental development mindset; leaders who will facilitate greater cohesion and cooperation between African countries.

 Individuals with a Pan-African outlook demonstrated leadership ability and an excellent academic record who wish to study on the African continent, outside their home country are invited to apply for the scholarships.

Capacity for youth is also strengthened through roundtable which presents an opportunity for MINDS to strengthen the sense of community among scholars around Mandela's pan-African legacy.

The purpose of the MINDS Scholarship Programme for Leadership Development in Africa was to action MINDS' vision of developing young leaders who have a continent-wide development mindset and can facilitate greater cooperation between African countries.

Furthermore, encouraging dialogue and engagement between scholars from various backgrounds (both academically and culturally) fosters a stronger pan-African mindset.

In conclusion, youth capacity is imperative as architects of the future of Africa.

Capacity development empowers youth across Africa to collectively harness their experience, knowledge, and expertise towards the development of the continent. Further, it spurs growth and prosperity, strengthens democratic governance, and enhances peace and stability across the continent.

*Ronald Zvendiya is an Independent policy analyst. [email protected],

These weekly articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, managing consultant of Zawale Consultants (Private) Limited, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe. Email - [email protected] and mobile No.+263 772 382 852 or Mobile No. +263 772 382 852

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