Inclusive elections: promoting youth political participation in Sierra Leone

On 7 March, over 3 million Sierra Leoneans will go to the polls to elect the President, Parliament and local councils. As part of a broader programme to make the electoral process more inclusive, WFD trained 35 Youth Peace Ambassadors to promote peaceful political participation.

Violence marred all previous elections, with young people often behind incidents due to high rates of unemployment and high levels of political misinformation and intolerance. This is why activities to support disengaged young people are at the heart of the WFD Sierra Leone Programme.

The WFD Sierra Leone programme for inclusive and peaceful elections

Ahead of the general election, WFD, in partnership with government, political parties and local civil society organisations, is implementing a comprehensive programme, as a member of the Standing Together for Democracy consortium, to engage youth, women and vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities, in the political process.

Activities included sessions to develop election manifestoes with representatives from 14 political parties, the launch of a National Agenda to involve people living with disabilities in the elections in partnership with the Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI) and a nationwide outreach tour in 9 districts to promote tolerance and educate about politics in partnership with Community Agenda.

Engaging young people

In December, WFD organised a two-day National Youth Conference in Freetown in partnership with the Network of Youth for Development Sierra Leone (NYDSL) and the National Youth Commission (NaYCom) and was attended by over 300 young people representing all 14 districts in Sierra Leone.

This conference trained youth leaders on dialogue, community engagement and politics. It brought together political parties, the Minister of Youth Affairs, the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), the Sierra Leone Police and Office of the National Security to discuss the role and commitment of political parties and their leaders in ensuring peaceful elections.

The conference agreed violence-free elections and meaningful youth engagement are a shared responsibility of all: political parties, civil society as well as citizens. Political parties were invited to redouble efforts to conduct drug and violence free campaigns. A group of 35 Youth Peace Ambassadors was selected to reach out to local communities across the country and implement specific action plans.

Over 85% of Youth Peace Ambassadors have been able to take forward the training they received to concretely deliver action plans, as monitored and supported by the WFD programme. The work of young leaders has been integrated by local events involving young people, including a football match in Kabala, and media activity, including the participation in popular radio talk shows to further educate about peaceful political engagement.

In February, Youth Peace Ambassador Matthieu Conte, organised a regional youth non-violence and voters’ education training for 100 young people in Bo City, Sierra Leone. The event, part of Matthieu’s action plan to educate youth in his community, involved speakers from the police and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and an educational drama performance by Community Agenda.

At the end of the event participating young people made a personal pledge to promote peace and political tolerance in their communities ahead of next week’s election and beyond.

The Sierra Leone elections will take place on 7 March 2018. The WFD Sierra Leone programme will continue its work after the election with activities involving the new Parliament and Government.

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WFD and CPA UK, together for Gambian National Assembly

Less than one year after democracy was restored to The Gambia, Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the UK branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, agreed a partnership programme with the National Assembly at a function in the House of Commons in the presence of the Rt. Hon John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, Hon. Mariam Jack-Denton Speaker of the National Assembly and Sir Henry Bellingham MP, Chair of WFD.

The partnership will share UK parliamentary experience to support members of the National Assembly in The Gambia with establishing effective parliamentary oversight of the executive, making better laws and engaging the public. It follows early programmes launched in response to demand for support following the general election of April 2017.

Over the last nine months, WFD and CPA-UK:

  • Organised a four-day induction programme for new members of the National Assembly in Banjul.
  • Enabled the parliament of Sierra Leone to share lessons in Banjul and inform a review of the official record of parliamentary proceedings (Hansard), based on recent training they received from the Parliament of the Isle of Man (Tynwald). Tynwald also assisted directly with an induction session on the use of digital equipment.
  • Facilitated an inward visit from the leadership of the National Assembly to Westminster and Cardiff to learn more about legislation, devolution, constituency outreach and the committee system.

Taking part in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Assembly and CPA UK, Sir Henry Bellingham MP said:

“We have never had anything but a great deal of mutual understanding and indeed respect for the Gambian people and Gambian parliamentarians, who during difficult years consistently stood up for democracy and human rights.

“We [UK parliament] are not perfect by any means, but where we do have knowledge, skills and experience, we want to impart that to other parliaments and maybe you can learn from some of our mistakes.”

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WFD research to inform cost of politics talks in Ghana

At what point does the cost to stand for election become so high it affects equality, trust and good governance?

New data shows the cost of running for political office in Ghana went up by nearly 60% over one single electoral cycle (2012-2016).

Opening the second phase of WFD’s flagship research into the cost of politics, an in-depth analysis of the costs incurred by candidates in Ghana, published in February, will inform WFD technical talks with government, political parties and civil society about practical steps to ensure wider and fair access to politics.

Ghana has held six elections since returning to multiparty democracy in 1992 with three peaceful power transitions, including, in 2016, the first defeat of a sitting incumbent. However, multiparty competitive elections can be costly affairs for aspiring and incumbent legislators. WFD research found between 2012 and 2016 the cost of running for political office in Ghana increased 59%. On average candidates needed to raise approximately GHS 390,000 (approx. USD 86,000) to secure the party primary nomination and compete in the parliamentary election in their constituency. If the cost of politics rises to unaffordable levels the danger is that politics becomes the domain of the elite and wealthy, and that the motivation and incentives of MPs move from serving the public to recovering their own investment.

The cost of elections in Ghana

WFD’s new study, in collaboration with the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), breaks down the various costs involved in seeking public office in Ghana. Over 250 candidates and sitting MPs were surveyed about their experiences in the 2012 and 2016 elections. These findings were complemented by individual interviews and focus groups. Four key areas of election expenditure – campaigns, payment of party workers, media and advertisement and donations – were analysed in detail at both the party primary level and during parliamentary election campaigns. They paint a picture of an environment where male candidates outspend female ones; where the greatest costs incurred are by candidates standing in municipal areas; where party primaries, particularly those of Ghana’s two main political parties (the NDC and NPP) can be very expensive affairs; and where an ability to spend the most money is, by and large, a critical factor in successful winning a seat in elected office.

In Ghana, a sitting MP earns GHS 233,000 annually (approx. USD 51,000). Therefore a successful election campaign on average costs them the equivalent of the best part of two years’ wages. This illustrates how much of a barrier to entry the cost of politics can have on ordinary Ghanaians who are keen to seek political office but lack substantial sponsorship.

It is important to note that the figures quoted for the items above also do not account for all the ‘soft’ money raised and spent by the candidates in the parliamentary primaries because according to respondents, tracking how much a candidate spent in any contest is an extremely difficult exercise: ‘it is a fact that there are so many items we spent money on, which cannot be accounted for in our election budgets’, a candidate who wished to remain anonymous said. The actual cost is therefore likely to be higher than the numbers provided.

Implications of the increasing ‘costs of politics’ on democracy

From those surveyed, three broad themes emerged on the political and societal implications of rising costs of running for and maintaining public office:

  • Exclusion: women and youth suffer disproportionately when the cost of politics rises.
  • Disillusionment: increasing costs lead to the perception that competence takes a backseat to wealth in gaining seats in parliament.
  • Corruption: mounting MP debts makes them susceptible to a variety of forms of corruption.

What kinds of options are available to counter the trend or mitigate its impact? The research presented respondents with several ‘good practice’ solutions that have been implemented elsewhere to limit the growth of political finance.

Adopting ‘good practice’: what will work for Ghana?

First, those surveyed expressed strong support for remedies that affected other institutions or groups. For instance, 80% supported laws that requires balanced media coverage during elections. 88% supported civic education programmes that encouraged voters to stop making financial demands on candidates or MPs.

The sample also supported interventions that would likely benefit them personally, whether financially or indirectly. 85% supported a reduction in filing fees imposed on candidates by electoral commissions or political parties. This has been a particularly large growth area for political costs, as parties have come to realise the potential rents to be gained from extracted significant fees from their candidates.

There was far less support, however, for regulations that restricted their own ability to operate within campaigns. Just 50% favoured a cap on spending for electoral campaigns, while only 56% supported a similar cap on how much candidates could spend on media advertising. These kinds of caps have a somewhat chequered history in Sub-Saharan Africa, so the resistance may not be entirely self-serving, but the distinction is intriguing.

Lastly, over 72% of the respondents expressed support for sanctions against those who engage in political patronage. Given that 83% of these same respondents declared their approval of political patronage in a previous question, this juxtaposition strengthens the hypothesis that most political actors would like to see the system change (and the costs reduce) but few to none feel they can make that change on their own.

Instead, they accept the rules of the game as they are while expressing support for certain changes that might eventually shift the rules in a positive direction. Further research will explore this collective action problem and the effect this cognitive dissonance has on efforts to catalyse political finance reform.

The complete study, funded by DFID Ghana through the Strengthening Action Against Corruption (STAAC) programme, will be available on in February 2018, when WFD will begin engaging institutions and civil society in Ghana to present the results of the research and discuss practical action.

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WFD launches new partnership for electoral assistance in Africa

On 12 September 2017, WFD signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) to expand its electoral assistance programme during a side event to the Democracy UK conference marking 25 years since the establishment of the Foundation.

WFD’s new Strategic Framework 2017-2022 outlines the organisation’s focus on building of partnerships with leading implementers in the democracy and governance field. It also expands WFD’s programmatic focus to include strengthening electoral institutions, contributing to more credible, inclusive and peaceful elections. The partnership with EISA reinforces WFD’s strategic commitments by establishing a formal commitment to collaborate through information sharing and development of key projects in the region.

Both organisations recognise that elections in Africa have made significant progress towards inclusiveness and credibility but agree there are still many challenges to overcome. In particular, there is need for: immediate post-election support to implement the recommendations of regional and international observer missions; developing the skills of local citizen observers and support for parties to develop their capacity to effectively monitor the electoral process, including the ability conduct parallel tabulation of results to increase accountability. Through their new partnership, WFD and EISA intended to jointly fundraise and develop regional initiatives.

EISA is the African continent’s leading electoral support organisation. It was established in 1996 to promote credible elections, participatory democracy, human rights culture and the strengthening of governance institutions for the consolidation of democracy in Africa. The organisation has grown significantly since its founding and now support selection management bodies, political parties, parliaments and local observers across the continent. EISA is a valuable support to regional bodies such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), providing capacity building and advice on regional election monitoring activities.

Signing the MoU, Executive Director of EISA Denis Kadima, said: “EISA anticipates that this agreement will enable the two organisations to carry out joint initiatives toward the strengthening of political organisations and the enhancement of electoral and political processes at local, national, regional and global levels for the advancement and deepening of democracy.”

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Agenda for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in 2018 elections launched in Freetown

On 24 August 2017, Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) in partnership with Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI), launched a new National Agenda for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the electoral and political process ahead of Sierra Leone’s 2018 elections.

Globally, approximately 15 per cent of the population have a disability, 80 per cent of whom live in developing countries. With a history of civil war and low ranking in the 2016 Human Development Index (HDI), the number of people with disabilities in Sierra Leone is likely to be much higher. They are often the poorest in their community and are rarely empowered to participate politically; Sierra Leone is no exception.

WFD is working with SLUDI and the disability community to ensure that the country’s March 2018 elections are inclusive and respond to the needs of PWDs.

Key to our work is the launch of the PWD Agenda which will serve:

  1. As an advocacy tool for the disability community and disability groups in Sierra Leone. Helping them to advocate for the integration of key public policy priorities in the manifestos of political parties;
  2. As a guide for key organisations interested in engaging PWDs and other institutions on PWD-related priorities for the upcoming elections;
  3. As a national advocacy document that will guide Elections Management Bodies (EMBs), political parties and the next Government on the planning, budgeting and implementation of PWD interventions.

The PWD Agenda is centred on six pro-disability public policy priorities identified by the disability community following inclusive nationwide stakeholder consultations with nearly 1400 persons with disabilities across Sierra Leone’s 14 administrative districts. Seven political parties, four State Commissions, the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs, the Ministry of Sports, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the media and other pro-disability organisations also contributed to the development of the agenda.

Public policy priorities:

  • Enhance the inclusion and participation of PWDS in the political process in Sierra Leone
  • Ensure physical accessibility of public buildings, infrastructure and transportation for PWDs
  • Support the collection of accurate data on PWDs in Sierra Leone for better planning
  • Improve access to inclusive education
  • Enhance PWDs access to health care with additional investment and monitoring
  • Enhance the employment and socio-economic empowerment of PWDs

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) and Political Party Registration Commission (PPRC) also have a role to play in creating an inclusive space for the disabled community to participate in the electoral process. The national agenda calls on them to strengthen their support systems for the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

‘Our survey shows it is only by acknowledging the existence and the needs of people with disabilities that Sierra Leone can build a truly inclusive and fair society.’

George Kunnath, WFD’s Regional Director for Africa

Investing in disability support will require steadfast commitment if Sierra Leone is to fully align itself with national legislation and Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which states: ‘States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others.’ If PWDs do not have a meaningful voice, choice or control in the decisions affecting their lives, there can be no true democracy.

Launching the PWD Agenda in Freetown, Zainab Kamara from Empowerment of Women’s Social Inclusion, said:

‘We call for a new and inclusive approach that will guarantee Sierra Leoneans with disabilities are part of the long term strategic vision of political parties. We thank WFD, the Standing Together for Democracy Consortium and UKaid Sierra Leone for their ongoing support to ensure as many of us as possible can take part in the March 2018 elections.’

Santigie Kargbo, President of SLUDI, added:

‘Today, 24 of August 2017, we, the disabled community, demand our political parties and new government to integrate the following asks in their manifestoes and for the new Government to deliver on them.’

WFD’s Regional Director for Africa, George Kunnath explained:

‘It is the first time such a broad coalition of people with disabilities, their friends and champions come together in such a significant way to request the attention of Sierra Leone’s political actors.’

‘Our survey shows it is only by acknowledging the existence and the needs of people with disabilities that Sierra Leone can build a truly inclusive and fair society. Our hope is this issue will feature prominently in the upcoming election campaign.’

WFD is implementing this work as a member of the ‘Standing Together for Democracy Consortium;’ a coalition of CSOs funded by UKaid through the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in support of the 2017/18 electoral cycle in Sierra Leone. The coalition aims to create the right conditions for free, fair and peaceful elections in Sierra Leone. Led by Search for Common Ground (SFCG), the consortium is made up of five national organisations – National Elections Watch (NEW), Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), Independent Radio Network (IRN), Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) and 50/50 Group – and two international organisations – SFCG and WFD.

This programme forms part of WFD’s work in Sierra Leone.

(Photo: Performance of the PWD agenda song at the launch in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Several key stakeholders including CSOs and Politicians were present at the ceremony.)

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New programme: helping Nigerian youth build a democracy that delivers

On 25 July, Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) launched a new Youth Empowerment Programme (YEP) to support the advancement of democracy in Nigeria through increased political participation and electoral representation of young people.

At 60%, Nigeria has one of the highest shares of people aged between 18 and 35 in the world. Young people make up over 55% of registered voters but are not able to stand as parliamentary candidates until they turn 30, meaning a large share of voting adults are not represented in the National Assembly.

The three-year, 114 million Nigerian Naira programme (279,000 GBP) will support Nigerian youth groups and political parties with the objective of enabling greater youth participation. It will focus on three levels of intervention:

  • Helping establish national cross-party consensus to lower the minimum age for candidates
  • Supporting major Nigerian political parties to develop effective youth wings
  • Enabling Nigerian civil society to engage more young people in the democratic process

The programme will work closely with the Young Parliamentarian Forum of the National Assembly, the youth wings of the APC and PDP parties, local NGO Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports (MoYS) and Nigerian Youth Parliament (NYP).

Launching the programme at a workshop with Nigerian youth leaders in Abuja, Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of WFD said:

“A multi-party democracy can still fall short of citizen expectations when a large chunk of the population is not represented in Parliament. WFD Nigeria’s Youth Empowerment Programme aims at tackling this challenge.

“In 2019, the republican Constitution of Nigeria will turn 20. By then, we hope many candidates born under democratic rule will be able to stand for office and shape the future of Nigerian democracy.”

Participating in the launch, Kate Osamor MP, chair of the UK House of Commons All-Party Parliamentary Group on Nigeria said:

“Nigeria’s success as a prosperous and progressive country depends on enabling young people to get involved in the political system, shaping the agenda and taking decisions about the future of their country. That is what the WFD programme will focus on.”

WFD will be supporting this three-year programme with funding from the UK Government. It will be one of WFD’s innovative ‘integrated programmes’: bringing together political party and parliamentary expertise to address a policy issue from multiple angles and involving a variety of decision-makers. The WFD Nigeria ‘Youth Empowerment Programme’ will benefit from a partnership with the international offices of the UK Conservative and Labour parties.

(Photo: young women participate in the youth empowerment programme launch, 25 July 2017)
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Follow the money: how we helped establish a watchdog in Mozambique

Democracy can help contrast corruption and enable fair distribution of resource by making information about government accounts available to the public. This is why we are working with the parliament of Mozambique to help them monitor spending.

The country is developing very rapidly by tapping into a wealth of natural resources such as gas. Revenues must be accounted for and used wisely to improve the lives of Mozambicans.

WFD is uniquely placed to deliver high quality technical support in this field:

  • Our work to help establish parliamentary budget offices in the Western Balkans is one of our greatest achievements to date and encouraged other countries to adopt similar initiatives.
  • We partnered with the Scrutiny Unit in the Westminster Parliament and the Financial Scrutiny Unit in the Scottish Parliament to share UK experience providing technical analysis.

The importance of setting up a body to monitor public money in Mozambique was identified in various evaluations, especially following the International Monetary Fund debt scandal that emerged in 2013.

Initially, the office will focus on providing technical analysis of the Budget as well as studies on national economy issues including public debt.
At the centre of our approach is encouraging learning between similar institutions that WFD helped establish over recent years.

Practices and expertise from countries such as the UK are not all immediately replicable and, for new watchdogs to succeed, a change in culture is necessary. This requires time and support from other institutions nationally and internationally.

“Many parliaments in the world have this technical support mechanism and this leads to positive parliamentary performance in the oversight of public finances, so I think that Mozambique is not an island and has to be part of the world.”

Moisés Mondlane, Technical Cabinet staff

In April, we brought together the Serbian Parliamentary Budget Office and the technical unit responsible for economic analysis in the legislative assembly of Mozambique for a workshop in Maputo.

Comparing notes with Serbian colleagues was something the Mozambican experts found very useful. Abdala Luís, a local trainee with the technical unit commented: “Our colleague from Serbia has shown us the main ways to produce quality analyses that will impress in a positive way our MPs and make us a credible unit. We learned that infographics are the best products to show our MPs; they do not have much text, instead focusing on graphics and some description that is appropriate for MPs’ use, as Members do not have time to read much.”

No matter where in the world you are working on financial analysis, similar challenges emerge. As Nenad Jevtovic from the Serbian parliament explains: “A common problem is how to attract the attention of MPs”. Crunching numbers submitted to parliament for approval in a timely manner is also very important to the success of newly established budget offices.

Serbian researchers helped their peers by suggesting a possible way forward: “It is very important to work step-by-step. In the first five months [of the programme], the Technical Cabinet should develop basic reports and infographics on budgetary analysis. After five months trainees will start to prepare detailed analysis on fiscal and economic issues,” Mr Jevtovic explained.

“Our goal is to provide technical support to the Committees to effectively carry out the public financial oversight of the Executive,” commented Mr. Atanásio Chacanane, Director of the Technical Cabinet. “The Technical Cabinet will provide better service to Members and its impact will benefit Mozambican society,” he continued.

Moisés Mondlane, staff of the Technical Cabinet added: ‘This unit will help MPs make sure that allocated resources are being used properly. Many parliaments in the world have this technical support mechanism and this leads to positive parliamentary performance in the oversight of public finances, so I think that Mozambique is not an island and has to be part of the world.’

The WFD Mozambique mission, which helped establish a Parliamentary Study Centre in 2011, is now focusing on support for Mozambican parliamentary staff to help legislators follow the money and in this way, help all ordinary Mozambicans benefit from economic growth.

(Photo: Nenad Jevtovic, a researcher from WFD supported Parliamentary Budget Office in Serbia, shares his experience providing analysis to MPs with counterparts in Mozambique.)
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Better laws for Ghana: making data accessible to legislators

Sitting in the Library of the House of Commons it’s hard to imagine how legislators could lack good quality research to inform their legislative initiatives.

Systems, researchers and the library in the Parliament of Ghana worked in isolation, leaving legislators and their offices confused about help on offer and diminishing the effectiveness of the institution.

The Inter-Departmental Research and Information Group (IDRIG) which we are helping establish provides a facility for Ghanaian lawmakers to commission research and also a system to share information between different departments including Library, ICT and Research.

This week, WFD will open an exhibition, as part of the Research and Information Week in parliament, to present results to legislators, academia, civil society, media and other users of parliamentary facilities.

Before the establishment of the group, departments worked in isolation and competition between them was the norm. The lack of communication led to the establishment of multiple ‘information storage systems’ to the benefit of technology providers and expensive consultants but to the detriment of legislators and the reputation of the parliamentary service.

“What is left is for us in the departments to effectively collaborate to get the best out of this support.”

Mohammed Nyagsi, Director of Research in the Parliament of Ghana

Change is never easy to embrace but parliamentary staff in Ghana are starting to see the benefits of working together. As Gloria Insaidoo, the Director of Library Services, recently told us: ‘we are all aware of the turf protection that exists among departments, I have analysed the concept of working in common areas offered by this WFD platform and I would like to encourage colleagues to take these meetings seriously since it will benefit our work and the parliament in general.’

As part of this programme, we helped set up the IDRIG coordinating committee and the technical team in June 2016. These meet monthly and during emergencies and host training sessions and study tours which often result in the production of joint analysis, services and learning events that help legislators better fulfil their roles.
‘I have always had confidence in the support that Parliament receives from WFD,’ said Mr. Mohammed Nyagsi, the Director of Research in the Parliament of Ghana in his welcome address during the first meeting of the IDRIG Coordinating Committee, ‘What is left is for us in the departments to effectively collaborate to get the best out of this support.’

We remain committed to providing that support and adapt that support where needed. From human resources to communications, we have expanded our programme to meet the demands of an increasingly more professional parliamentary service and the political parties that can use it. WFD recently received a request from the Parliamentary Service Board to support party caucuses establish units that help them access and coordinate evidence.

Through coordination and better systems, one researcher can help several legislators pass better laws, which in turn will impact on the lives of millions. This is true at Westminster and is becoming a reality in Ghana too.


(Photo: Colleagues from the Inter-Departmental Research Group participate in a WFD organised planning event.)
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Hope for democracy: young people and politics in sub-Saharan Africa

George Kunnath, Regional Director, Africa and Europe

Sub-Saharan Africa has a youth population of 265 million. By 2045, the population of people under the age of 25 across the African continent is expected to rise by over 40%. Africa is full of young men and women with huge potential, eager to help build the continent’s future.

The continent’s young leaders are inspiring, ambitious and passionate. However, many of them are denied any real political voice or influence. Yet their role is essential in addressing the continent’s major problems of youth unemployment, underemployment and the lack of education, healthcare and basic social services.

According to the World Bank, Youth account for 60% of all African unemployed. While most African economies are growing, they are not growing fast enough to solve the problems of unemployment. The outlook is not much better for those in employment, as the region continues to report the highest youth working poverty rates globally at almost 70 %. The number of poor working youth has increased by as much as 80 per cent since 1991.

That’s why WFD is committed to supporting young people to engage in politics. To borrow the words of Mohamed Jalloh, who runs our programme in Sierra Leone: ‘we have a generation of young people facing the harsh realities of unemployment, limited space in decision making, exposure to sexual risks, crime, violence and a lack of opportunities for quality education. The energy, talent and determination of youth can be used to sustain development.’

“Despite making significant progress in the last five years, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to have the lowest levels of youth development in the world. All of the ten lowest-ranked countries in the 2016 Youth Development Index are from Sub-Saharan Africa.”

2016 Global Youth Development Index

The problems of unemployment are linked to education. Young people in Africa are receiving education in industries that have stagnated and have not kept up with global trends. Structural unemployment remains a major problem and governments need to start linking the education system to match the demands of the labour market.

Unless young people have a voice in the legislatures and the spheres of influence their needs will continue to be ignored until the problem spills over into conflict. Critical to giving the youth a place at the table is the reform of political parties to become more inclusive. Parties that offer the youth real leadership opportunities. This is a major challenge as the status quo has served the aging political elite well.

Yet, all is not lost in Africa. The youth of Africa has shown increased political awareness and a willingness to make their voices heard. Credit must be shown to youth of the Gambia who played a significant role in protecting the outcome of the 2016 elections. And let’s not forget, that in 2012 the Senegalese opposition mobilised the youth around the issue of unemployment to defeat President Abdoulaye Wade. Young leaders are waking up to realise that in a few years the youth vote will determine the outcome of every African election.

A window of opportunity exists to help mainstream youth into the governance structures of African countries. Unless the investment is made to support Africa’s youth, there is the ever-increasing risk that many will be led away into tribal, ethnic, religious or political conflict. That is why WFD’s Africa team considers strengthening youth political participation and inclusion as the key pillar of our African strategy.

As our Country Representative in Nigeria, Adebowale Olorunmola put it: ‘Democracy thrives when citizens, regardless of age, gender, and social status, are involved in decisions that affect their lives and the society they live in.’ This is why young leaders must get a seat at the decision-making table and why WFD programmes in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda are working to do just that.





Photo: Jo-Ann Kelly

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Using evidence to deliver better services to the citizens of Kenya

Demographic data is key to effective, responsive and evidence-based legislation.

Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) is supporting the Senate of Kenya develop new ways to collect county-level information which will help legislators decide where to improve public services.

Kenya, which will hold a general election on 8 August, is currently going through a process of devolution of powers from the central state to its 47 administrative counties. Parliament is committed to developing policy that takes local issues into account and enables a more balanced distribution of public funds.

The WFD Kenya parliamentary programme aims at enabling a successful devolution of powers and at improving both the legislative and representative roles of the Senate. An important component of the programme is the partnership with the Northern Ireland Assembly, which enabled the study of its geographic information system by the Senate of Kenya.

In October 2016, a delegation from the Senate of Kenya visited the Northern Ireland Assembly as part of a WFD study visit to explore data collection methods. The visit included a meeting with RAISE – the Assembly’s Research and Information Services Department – which focused on how to capturing local data and how to processing this into reader-friendly formats by using a Geographic Information System. This can help legislators consider the needs of constituencies, for example on health, education and infrastructure.

RAISE’s use of geographic information helps representatives in the Northern Ireland Assembly take evidence-based decisions for their constituencies.

Following a study visit to Stormont, Mr Ahmed Odhowa, Senior Research Officer in the Senate Liaison Office that has been actively involved informing devolution policy, research and analysis explained how “the WFD programme broadened Kenyan Parliament’s understanding of research and evidence can be used to inform and influence legislators effectively”.

WFD is now helping the Senate of Kenya set up an information system covering all of Kenya’s 47 counties. Such a system has the potential to help committees monitor budgets and the provision of better infrastructure across the country. It can also provide a stronger evidence base for laws that deliver better services to citizens while allocating precious public resources in a more equitable way across different regions.

From ensuring access to healthcare and education to improving investment in agriculture and road networks that many communities rely on, the greater use of evidence by the Senate can transform lives and contribute to a more successful devolution of powers.

As Senator Moses Kajwang from the Senate’s Standing Committee on Roads and Transportation, put it: “the time is nigh for a Devolution Revolution. We at the Senate are best placed to represent the counties interests at the national level.”

(Photos: Main: Representatives from the Senate of Kenya and research staff meet with RAISE in Northern Ireland. Inset: Ahmed Odhowa, Senior Research Officer in the Senate Liaison Office)
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