Unspoken assumptions: youth, participation and the African policy process

Demographic change, persistent and disproportionate unemployment and their feared implications for political disorder are key drivers of growing donor attention to youth as a development category. Bi and multilateral donors thus increasingly seek to mainstream youth related goals on health, education, employment and governance into development policies that cater to youth needs and aspirations (GSDRC 2011). While youth participation in policy processes has potential to channel their energy, passions and frustrations, it often turns out to be deficient, tokenistic, or too episodic to be meaningful (SPW/ DFID-CSO Youth Working Group 2010; GSDRC 2011; McGee and Greenhalf 2011). Donors thus increasingly seek mechanisms to enhance youth participation (GSDRC 2011), raising questions such as what is meaningful participation? How can voice be extended into influence? Who should participate, through what forms, and how can participation be appropriately institutionalised?

March, 2012
Dolf J.H. te Lintelo