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"Why Africa Needs to Lower Its Voting Age to 16"

Tunisian youths demonstrate beneath a poster of Mohamed Bouazizi near the prime minister's office in Tunis, Jan. 28, 2011. Bouazizi's act of self-immolation touched a nerve with educated, unemployed youths nationwide.
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"Why Africa Needs to Lower Its Voting Age to 16"

PovertyMatters Blog

Op-Ed, The Guardian

February 9, 2011

Author: Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development; Director, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project; Principal Investigator, Agricultural Innovation in Africa

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Science, Technology, and Globalization; Science, Technology, and Public Policy


In apparent concern following democratic uprisings in north Africa, the African Union has decided to hold its next summit in June 2011 on the theme of "accelerating youth empowerment for sustainable development".

One of the most pressing issues in African politics is to realign the continent's voting systems with its age structure. One way to do this is to lower the voting age to 16 so as to expand opportunities for more young people help shape their own future.

Africa has the youngest and fastest growing population in the world. Over 40% of the population are under the age of 15. More than 20% are between the ages of 15 and 24. Three out of five of Africa's employed are young people, according to the International Labour Office. Young people account for 36% of the overall working age population.

There are two key steps Africa can take now that can help to convert the "youth bulge" from a threat into a development opportunity. The first is political inclusion, by lowering the voting age, and the second is expanding opportunities for technical training and associated job creation....

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For Academic Citation:

Juma, Calestous. "Why Africa Needs to Lower Its Voting Age to 16." The Guardian, February 9, 2011.

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