Over 200 participants from more than 10 countries in Africa called for increased youth participation in politics at landmark Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy (CP4D) conference, hosted by the Parliament of Uganda on 4-5 March.
High entry costs are a big barrier to youth participation and the Speaker of Uganda, Rebecca Kadega, committed to asking parliament to review the current nomination costs urgently.
Only five African countries are in the top twenty, in terms of of number of parliamentarians under the age of 30, despite the continent having the largest youth population globally.
That’s why it was so important to give youth leaders the opportunity to participate in discussions about governance issues that affect youth development in the region at the two-day summit organised by CP4D through Westminster Foundation for Democracy.
Cost of politics as a barrier to youth participation
Officially opening the conference, Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga responded to calls to make politics more accessible for young people by lowering the cost of nomination. She said:
“I have intentions to ask parliament to review the nomination fees that are currently at three million Uganda shillings (equivalent to £603).
This is too high and it is one of the main reasons why young people in Uganda have failed to run for office.”
Increasing entry costs were raised by Chair of the National Youth Council, Lillian Aber, who indicated that this was one of the main issues discouraging young people from participating in the formal political process.
Participants at the conference also raised access to politicians, policy makers and the need for more research to support their advocacy efforts on issues that affect young people.
Youth support for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance
Throughout the conference, ideas were shared on the equal participation of young men and women, how to change laws or policies to support increased inclusion and what young people in positions of power can do.
Plans that endorsed the adoption of laws and policies that support youth engagement in politics at the regional level, like the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) were prominent in discussions.
WFD, through the CP4D programme, supports groups in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya who want the Charter to be ratified and implemented.
Speaking at the conference, Chair of the Kenya chapter of ACDEG called for greater collaboration to support increased inclusion of young people in politics. Ashura Michael said:
“Democracy is about who? It’s about your leaders and yourselves.
Young people should join old people if they want to get something done. We need old people, we need their input. Democracy can not be fixed by yourself alone.”
Ashura’s message was supported by the ACDEG Coordinator from Tanzania who echoed her call for unity when it comes to involving more young people in decision-making. He said:
“I call on my fellow young people to leave aside their political differences and put the African charter on each parliaments agenda.”
WFD, through CP4D, will use the momentum of the #YouthWhoLead conference to support local groups and their campaigns for the ratification of ACDEG. Engaging young people in politics is critical to safeguarding and strengthening democracy worldwide