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Key findings
  • Two-thirds (67%) of citizens believe that for the country to do well, Malawians should listen more to the wisdom of the elders rather than to fresh ideas from young people. Even among 18- to 35-year-old respondents, 61% prioritise the wisdom of the elders.
  • Young Malawians’ priorities for increased government spending to help young people are business loans (33%), job creation (30%), job training (16%), and education (15%).
  • Like their elders, young citizens cite management of the economy as the most important problem the government should address.
  • One in four young respondents (25%) say they “frequently” discuss politics with family and friends.

“We want youths of the country to have integrity and be patriotic. We do not want youths to be used only for political campaigns, we want them to be utilised positively in developing the nation.” Those were the words of Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera as he launched the National Youth Service in July 2022 (Moyo, 2022). 

Youth (aged 18-35) constituted 54% of registered voters in the 2019 election (Malawi Electoral Commission, 2019), making them highly attractive to candidates (Sangala, 2018). The Youth Decide Campaign (YDC), an initiative of civil society organisations in the run-up to the June 2020 fresh presidential election, argued that it was high time that young people were given a voice in the country’s political decision making and compiled a Youth Manifesto that it asked presidential candidates to sign (Mtawali, 2020a).

But when Chakwera unveiled his cabinet in July 2020, youth leaders accused him of “violent and heartless exclusion of the youth” (Mtawali, 2020b) and questioned the government’s commitment to addressing the needs and interests of young Malawians.

Findings of the most recent Afrobarometer survey do little to allay concerns about a lack of young voices in Malawi’s policy discourse. Most Malawians, including the youth themselves, prioritise the “wisdom of the elders” over fresh ideas from young people. And levels of political participation by young people do not reflect an active quest for a place at the decision-making table.

Witness Tapani Alfonso

Witness Tapani Alfonso is a junior research fellow at the Centre for Social Research at the University of Malawi in Zomba.

Joseph Chunga

Joseph J. Chunga is the national investigator for Malawi.