Youth in Politics We are not too young to run

Young people under the age of 24 makeup 1.8 billion of the world’s people. In Africa, they make up approximately 60 percent of the population. This is set to rise in the coming years according to the United Nations.

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22 year old Francisca Oteng-Mensah is the NPP’s parliamentary candidate for Kwabre East play

22 year old Francisca Oteng-Mensah is the NPP’s parliamentary candidate for Kwabre East

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There are growing calls for increased participation in politics by groups in society that have historically been underrepresented.

These include women, the disabled, social minorities and crucially young people.

Young people under the age of 24 makeup 1.8 billion of the world’s people. In Africa, they make up approximately 60 percent of the population. This is set to rise in the coming years according to the United Nations.

Although Africa is the youngest continent in the world, its leaders are the oldest. The average age of African leaders is 61. These include a 92 year old, an 89 year old and numerous septuagenarians.

Related: 22-year-old aspiring MP “too young and inexperienced" – Lecturer

As such it is very important for the views of young people not just to be included in the formulation of policies but for them to play an active part in the decision making process by contesting for elected office.

The campaign dubbed “Not too young to run” has recently been endorsed by the United Nations’ special envoy on youth affairs.

The campaign, started in Nigeria, is calling for the removal of age barriers steeped in the constitution. The campaigners want the age limit of the president reduced to 30 and the House of Representatives, down to 25 years.

In Ghana, while the age limit to become a Member of Parliament is 21, the presidency is etched at 40. There is a need for that to be further reduced for many young people to have a chance at assuming the highest office of the land; after all they are going to live with the decisions that are made for the rest of their lives.

Despite the numerous advantages to having younger leaders, such as policies which reflect contemporary thinking and aspirations, there are significant barriers even if age limits are lowered.

Political party structures pivot on old friendships, election nomination forms are dear and society’s perception of  the ‘wise age’ are going to need some time for significant change to happen.

When 22 year old Francisca Oteng-Mensah was elected the NPP’s parliamentary candidate for Kwabre East, she was described by the head of Department of Political Science at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Dr Richard Amoako Baah as “too young” and inexperienced for the task.

Another clear example is the Brexit vote which saw many young people voting to stay in but older voters choosing to stay out. Older people will not have to live with the consequences of this vote, the same way younger voters would.

If young people continue to be starved of opportunities to fairly contest decision making positions, radical, sometimes violent youth led political movements such as the Arab Spring and Fees Must Fall will become commonplace around the world.



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