Africa is a young population. Children under age 15 account for 41% of the population in 2017 and young persons aged 15 to 24 account for an additional 19% representing 60% of Africa’s population, making Africa the world’s youngest population.1 Four of the ten countries with youngest populations are in Southern Africa – Angola, DRC, Mozambique and Zambia.2 However it has some of the oldest leaders.3 The average age of the ten oldest African leaders is 78.5, compared to 52 for the world’s ten most-developed economies.

There is growing recognition of the role that youth can play in governance and political decision making. In a cyber dialogue on young women and political participation in June 2021, during the Generation Equality Forum young women spoke out about the importance of women participating in politics from an early age.

Sarah Leigh Elago, first got involved in politics through the junior councils in Windhoek, Namibia, and then went on to serve in local government, gave a passionate presentation on a Pan-African Perspective of Leading at Local and Regional levels. She spoke about the persistent barriers that women face, especially young women who come up against traditional beliefs that politics is a man’s domain. She has had to overcome a range of barriers in addition her age, including cultural norms, lack of participation and cooperation among youth and women organisations and lack of economic resources . She gave some very practical steps that could be taken to ensure young women’s full participation and to transform women from mere participants and beneficiaries, 1) improve access to resources, 2) effective political mentorship to inspire and support young and aspiring women leaders and to advance the political arena standards for mentorship programmes, 3) provide platforms for young women to dialogue and make contributions to policy debates, 4) regard women as equal partners to the growth of Africa and create 5) and women’s networking platforms that include all women not just a small elite, so that women can start pulling together.

1 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP/248.
2 Hoe Myers, 19 of the world’s 20 youngest countries are in Africa, We Forum, 30 August 2019,, accessed 25 July 2021
3 Yinka Adegoke, The world’s youngest continent will keep being run by its oldest leaders, Quartz Africa, 28 December 2017, accessed 24 July 2021