Young People and Policy Narratives in sub-Saharan Africa
Anyidoho, Nana Akua
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This paper is about the portrayal of youth in policy documentation in sub-Saharan Africa. Historically, young people’s engagement with policy and the array of institutions that affect their lives can be characterised by two broad, interacting themes: marginalisation and mobilisation. Marginalisation is associated with deeply rooted tendencies to defer to age in ‘gerontocratic’ societies (see, for example, Harris 2004), leaving young people outside circles of power, or lacking in ‘voice’ (see also te Lintelo 2011). This can lead to youth disaffection, which may either catalyse young people to mobilise, or make them a fertile recruiting ground for the political projects of others (e.g. Peters et al 2003; Peters and Richards 1998; Richards 1995). Thus, mobilisation can be seen to be, at least in part, a consequence of isolation and disempowerment. These themes are evident, to varying degrees, in each of five study countries we focus on in this paper: Ethiopia; Ghana; Kenya; Malawi; and Senegal. It is based on a review of key national policy documents and other formal policy documentation in the five countries. The review sought to discover how rural youth and youth-related issues are portrayed. Major policy domains were considered including: agriculture and rural development; education; health; employment; economic development; crime and security; natural resource management; and climate change. The analysis focused on the visibility of young people within the policy domain; the content of policy frames and narratives on young people; and linkages between youth and agriculture.