The last two decades have seen competitive political parties grow in number and size in African democratic systems. However, political parties on the continent still face significant challenges in providing inclusive opportunities for women and youth. Despite making up a majority of the population, women and young people in political parties continue to face inclusion barriers, and effective inclusion strategies and opportunities remain largely unimplemented. This lack of representation weakened parties’ reach and efficacy, and contributed to young people’s distrust of political institutions.
To combat these worrying trends, NDI’s Political Party Strengthening Academy (PPSA) has worked with political parties in over 13 countries in west Africa to develop internal, democratic political party reform action plans. These serve as roadmaps that help guide political party members to advocate and implement reforms in their respective parties, many with a particular focus on youth and women’s inclusion. The PPSA program also advises political party members on how to implement these plans at the organizational level. In southern and east Africa, the Political Party Leadership Institute (PPLI) has trained over 50 youth party members from five countries to enhance their leadership skills and involvement in party processes and policy initiatives. Through its annual symposium, PPLI provides a platform for selected young party leaders to present self-initiated projects to demonstrate their leadership abilities and increase their visibility and voice within their parties.
We need interactive participatory forums that bring together older and younger generations and are intended to create shared knowledge and meaning and a collective experience… Some of the commitments in these dialogues organized by CSOs, could be used to hold political parties/leaders accountable about their promises over time.
Ruth Kay Kangwa, PPLI Participant
On January 25, PPSA and PPLI collaborated to bring together over 45 political party leaders and young party members and NDI staff for a virtual webinar on youth inclusion in political party leadership. The collaborative nature of the event allowed for cross-regional and intergenerational experience sharing. Participants discussed successes and challenges in parties’ youth inclusion strategies across western, southern and eastern Africa. This training workshop featured four participants from PPSA and PPLI to formally exhibit presentations that highlighted their own experiences with proposing and implementing reform action plans and drafting policy briefs related to youth and women’s leadership in their respective political parties.
Presenters from political parties working with PPSA spoke about their work to lower the age limit of the youth wing of a political party in Niger; and the organization of capacity-building seminars and town halls on leadership skills for women and youth political party members in The Gambia. PPLI member participants discussed policy briefs they developed that led to actions to tackle youth unemployment in Botswana and educational programs to raise awareness of violence against women in South Africa.
It is true that the issue of the active presence of young people in politics is a problem shared by all our parties. If we are to alleviate the low political representation of young people, we must recognize the real cause. The root of the problem is mainly sociological. Young people are not brought up to be active, even in community organizations, early enough. Few young people are active at an early age. It is often necessary to wait until they enter university to see young people who want to become involved in politics and who are active in student leadership structures.
Ariane Adjolohoun, PPSA Participant
On January 20, PPLI welcomed a new cohort of young party leaders from Kenya and Zambia who will participate in a series of in-person and virtual workshops and trainings throughout 2022.
Following the success of the joint PPSA/PPLI webinar, PPLI continues to seek opportunities for young party members to engage with senior party leaders and contribute to creating more space for young people's inclusion in political and party processes, including at the Fall 2022 PPLI symposium.
The PPSA team closed out the second phase of its program with a capstone conference which took place in Grand Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire in late March 2022. This conference provided an in-person forum for program participants to share experiences and lessons learned from the implementation of their reform action plans with other political party reformers from around the region.
NDI’s PPSA and PPLI programs are implemented with support from the National Endowment for Democracy.
Author: Andrew Ceacatura and Kathleen Fung
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.