In any democracy, the power lies with the people. And the way they wield this power is through voting for their best candidates to represent them in government. However, democracy doesn’t seem to be going very well for Africa as a whole. Several factors contribute to this, but the most outstanding is the apathy of the youth in voting. According to a report by the United Nations, Africa has the youngest population in the world, with a median age of 19.5 years. It is therefore safe to assume that most Africans are between the ages of 18-25 years old. This is the age group that can make a difference, and when it comes to elections, this difference is made by casting your vote. In December 2016, Nana Akufo-Addo won the Ghanaian elections, defeating then President Mahama by 53.8% to 44.4%. Most elections hold such narrow gaps and the difference between the right leader and the wrong one is a matter of a few thousand votes.
Africa ironically has very old leaders in comparison to its young population. Before the young can even think of ousting the elder leaders, the desire for civic knowledge must come first. Most young Africans are preoccupied with ‘making it big’. Very little attention is given to the political atmosphere in their countries other than passing interest once a big enough scandal occurs within the government leaders.
Kenya is facing general elections on August 8th 2017 and just concluded the voter registration process on February 16th. The voter registration body, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), hoped to register 22 million voters and got to 14.3 million as of end of 2016.
However, it should be noted that Kenya has a population of over 40 million. Several factors play into the lack of full citizen participation in the election exercise such as citizens who cannot access voter registration and polling stations. The rest are dormant citizens who do not see the need to actively participate in the electoral process.
It is also worth remembering that out of all those who register, not all will end up voting. For the youth, seeing the dirty politics that is often played before elections is very off putting, especially for the middle class. For example, the current doctor’s strike in the country which is running into its 100th day has been a show for politicians to tout the doctors as the villains when they are trying to champion the betterment of healthcare in the country. Neither the main government nor the opposition are helping push through the matter and this poor performance is reflecting badly to the people. Why shuld they vote when neither choice is desirable?
However, that is a wrong attitude to take. Governance has to do with people. Specifically, the electorate (citizens) and their chosen leaders. Therefore, it is the people’s responsibility to choose competent leaders based on merit, not on ethnic affiliation or fear. As the general elections roll around, Kenyans, and more specifically, Kenyan youth, must vote with a conscious mind, aware that their decision, that one vote, makes all the difference.