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Key findings
  • More than half (56%) of Africa’s youth say they are “somewhat” or “very” interested in public affairs, but one-third (34%) say they never discuss politics.
  • A majority (55%) of African youth voted in their last national election, and one-third (34%) attended election campaign meetings.
  • Youth participation in protests declined in South Africa and Zimbabwe but rose dramatically in Nigeria. Nine in 10 (92%) African youth say they would not use force for a political cause.

A majority of African youth are interested in public affairs and discuss politics with those around them, but relatively low levels of civic engagement and political participation suggest a disconnect between the continent’s “youth bulge” and democratic processes.

These results of a new Afrobarometer analysis are being released in observance of International Youth Day (12 August), whose 2015 theme focuses on youth civic engagement and its implications for development. (For more on International Youth Day, please visit

Data from six rounds of Afrobarometer surveys in more than 30 African countries suggest that African youth are not fully engaged in formal political processes, such as voting in elections, as well as in more informal modes of engagement, such as meeting with community members and contacting political representatives. Youth participation in protests or demonstrations seems to vary with in-country conditions, and youth overwhelmingly reject the use of violence for political ends.

Sibusiso Nkomo

Sibusiso is Programme Manager, Africa Office at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Eleanor du Plooy

Eleanor du Plooy previously served as the Ashley Kriel Youth Leadership Development project leader at IJR.