More than half of all Africans are under 25, yet the average politician on the continent is in their early sixties. This ongoing disparity in representation, and the barriers that drive it, were discussed by Amujae Leaders Isata Kabia and Dr. Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings on a recent episode of the BBC World Service podcast Africa Daily.
Dr. Agyeman-Rawlings, a Member of Ghana’s Parliament, told presenter Alan Kasujja about the high costs that young people face when trying to enter politics: “Increasingly, getting into politics and running for office has become more and more expensive given the difficulties that the youth face now.” Lack of money for campaign financing is a huge barrier to young people running for political positions, especially if they are unemployed or financially unstable, she said.
Ms. Kabia is proactively working to address the generation gap in leadership through her organization, Voice of Women Africa. Last year, the organization mentored 36 young women at universities and secondary schools and supported them as they ran for student body leadership positions. This, Ms. Kabia said, is the key to encouraging younger generations to pursue leadership roles later in life:
“If can start early in their twenties, then they will not wait until their forties to actually run for office… You find, in history, those who at that age are going to be the ones who are actually running for public office at an older age.”
Dr. Agyeman-Rawlings echoed the need for current leaders to support youth representation:
“We can’t expect the next generation to pick up something that we are not willing to carry. It is an important duty to stand by what I believe in and fight for a good cause, because then perhaps others may not have to fight so hard.”