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The IUP Journal of International Relations :
The African Youth Charter and Youth Participation in Decision Making: Opportunities and Challenges
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Though the youth are a demographically significant part of Africa’s population and are recognized by, among others, the African Youth Charter (AYC) as Africa’s greatest resource, they exist, in many instances, on the margins of their societies’ decisionmaking processes. Their input to decisions about policies that affect their lives is relatively less as public affairs has largely not been regarded as the domain for young people. The Charter has emphasized the need to ensure the youth’s full and active participation in all decision-making processes of their societies if the continent is to realize its full potential. This paper, drawing lessons from Botswana’s experience, looks at the opportunities and challenges of implementing the AYC goal of realizing Africa's youth's active and full participation in the decision-making processes of their societies. The paper argues that to achieve the active and full participation of the youth, African societies will not only have to deal with the remnants of an institutional milieu and political processes that are gerontocratic and have historically limited the youth’s participation in public affairs, but will also have to go beyond simple appointments to youth parliaments and executive positions and take a longitudinal view to review and address the role of key institutions such as the family, education system and political parties that are very central in the making of the youth as social beings and political actors.

 
 
 

Global demographic statistics show that the youth currently represent a significant part of the world’s population. According to the most recent United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report on the state of world population, there are close to 1.8 billion young people in the age group of 10 to 24 in a global population of 7.3 billion, which is more than at any other time in human history. Population projections indicate that this age cohort will continue to grow and reach the 2 billion mark by the middle of this century.1 Africa has been no exception to these demographics. It has a population of 1 billion people, 60% of which is made up of young people under the age of 35 years and 19-23% are between the ages of 15-24.2 These have helped to make the continent the most youthful and will be so in the future.3 With declines in fertility and consequent declines in population growth rates globally, Africa will however continue to experience population growth.4 This growth will be driven by both natural increase and ‘momentum effect’.5 The momentum, according to Nair, will bring in larger cohorts into parental age groups, so that even as fertility declines considerably, the number of births would still be high. There has been growing concern about this growing ‘youthening’ of the continent’s population as its population’s median age is projected to decline.6 This ‘youthening’ is a consequence of the previous decade’s high fertility rates and falling infant and child mortality rates.7 It is perhaps as a result of these demographic characteristics and the opportunities and challenges they provide, both in the present and the future, that the youth have increasingly received attention. They are seen as the continent’s greatest resource8 and the shapers and leaders of our global future9 and have become a compelling subject for public policy discourse at the national, continental and global levels.

 
 
 

International Relations Journal, African Youth Charter (AYC), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), The African Youth Charter, Youth Participation, Decision Making, Opportunities, Challenges.