The average age of the Kenyan population is 19 years; in Uganda it’s just under 16 years. Yet young people in East Africa are severely underrepresented in politics.
This is an issue which has inspired David Momanyi, an experienced youth activist from Kenya who is striving to ensure that all young people can have their voice heard by those in power.
On 3 July 2019, David visited the Houses of Parliament to share his experience campaigning for more representative governance in Kenya.
Barriers to youth representation in East Africa
The African Charter on Democracy, Election and Governance (ACDEG) was created by the African Union in 2007 as an instrument for better governance across the continent and it includes ways which Governments can act to make their decision-making systems more inclusive of young people.
“Young people are tired of making statements. They now want to make impact and achieve change and inclusion.”
David Momanyi, Kenyan youth activist.
While this is a step in the right direction, 28 states, including Kenya and Uganda, have signed but not ratified the Charter, while others, including Tanzania, are yet to sign it.
David is the Chairperson of the Kenyan youth branch, known as a ‘youth chapter’, which campaigns to implement ACDEG in his home country.
Many youth chapters for the ACDEG were created across the continent to push for ratification of the Charter and engage more young people in politics.
However, the youth chapters are fighting a tough battle, as East African politics is mostly dominated by older people. This is exacerbated by high entry costs and traditional cultural structures that don’t consider young people to be decision-makers in the political process. As a result, there is a lack of youth participation in countries that have disproportionately large youth populations.
(Photo: David Momanyi, Chairperson of the Kenya Chapter for the ACDEG, speaking at the UK Parliament)
Visiting the UK Parliament
David Momanyi was invited to the UK Parliament to share his story at a roundtable of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), a cross-party group made up of MPs and Peers with an interest in democracy and international development.
He explained the difficulties young Kenyan people face in making their voices heard in politics:
“Young people in Kenya will pay more than $200 to be part of the governance of their country, but even if they pay, they are often still not given the opportunity to do that.”
David Momanyi’s work creates a community of passionate young people who learn skills of representation and advocacy so that they can engage more effectively in the political process. He is supported by the Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy (CP4D), led by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) to advance inclusive and accountable democracies in the Commonwealth.
Lyn Brown MP, who chaired the meeting, praised the valuable work David Momanyi does in providing a platform for youth leaders, saying:
“What David is doing is helping to create the grounds, the environment in which acorns can grow and flourish.”
(Photo: (from left to right) Sophia Fernandes, Commonwealth Programme Director, WFD; Afzal Khan MP; Lyn Brown MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on Democracy in the World.)
Engaging young people politically plays a crucial role in strengthening democracy around the world. That’s why WFD works with local groups and inspiring activists like David Momanyi to ensure the voices of marginalised groups are heard.