In January 2019, Chatham House, in partnership with the Robert Bosch Stiftung, canvassed the opinions of young people from across Africa and Europe as part of the Common Futures Conversations project.

The consultation gathered the respondents’ views on which political issues mattered to them, as well as data on their social media preferences and political engagement. This briefing provides an overview of what was found.

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Introduction

The world is experiencing an acute period of change and contestation. A backlash against the perceived uneven benefits of globalization has fundamentally reshaped national politics across the world, from the UK’s vote to leave the European Union to the election of President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. Major global challenges such as climate change, intercontinental migration, demographic shifts and the transformation of work by new technologies require global responses. However, these are increasingly obstructed by the reassertion of domestic political priorities and a subsequent weakening of multilateral cooperation.

In many of the electoral events punctuating this moment, the voices of young people have been either absent or overlooked. In Africa there is now a gap of 40 years between the average age of the continent’s population (25 years old) and the average age of the heads of state (65 years old).1 Meanwhile Europe contends with the effects of an ageing population that numerically marginalizes the concerns of younger voters.2 Politicians often point to the low turnout at elections by younger voters as a sign that the youth population is apathetic about politics or policy. The Common Futures Conversations Youth Survey 2019, carried out by Chatham House as part of the scoping process for the Common Futures Conversations project, tells a different story.

Common Futures Conversations is a collaboration between Chatham House and the Robert Bosch Stiftung which aims to facilitate political dialogue among young people from Africa and Europe. The main output of the project will be a digital platform which will address the disconnect between young people and traditional policymaking processes at both a national and international level. Through online exchanges, young people will have the opportunity to enhance their understanding of major policy challenges, connect with peers, and develop their own ideas on how to solve these challenges in an international space. The platform will give young people a ‘seat at the table’ in discussions on these major international policy challenges where their voices are presently overlooked or absent.

To ensure that the platform development process reflected the opinions and preferences of the intended users, Chatham House canvassed the opinions of young people from across Africa and Europe. The consultation gathered the respondents’ views on which political issues mattered to them, as well as data on their social media preferences and political engagement. This Survey Briefing provides an overview of the data collected.

1 Kiwuwa, D. E. (2015), ‘Africa’s old men’s club out of touch with continent’s suave, burgeoning youth’, The Conversation, 8 October 2015, http://theconversation.com/africas-old-mens-club-out-of-touch-with-continents-suave-burgeoning-youth-48618 (accessed 4 June 2019).
2 Runciman, D. (2018), ‘Democracy For Young People’, Talking Politics podcast, 5 December 2018, https://www.talkingpoliticspodcast.com/blog/2018/129-democracy-for-young-people?rq=young (accessed 4 June 2019).