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Posts tagged ‘Democracy’

Recent African Youth Protests

A Nigerian scholar, Akin Iwilade observed that African youth-led protests–against austerity programs that increase the cost of food and fuel–bypass the established opposition such as labor unions. The global economic crisis destabilizes established politics, thereby enabling “a global youth culture of protest” and criticism of neoliberalism. African youth are motivated by the economic crisis to construct “hybrid identities” using social media to address local issues. Urban lower-middle class youth are the new activists because of their access to cell phones and the Internet, as they were in recent protests in Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, Mozambique, Tunisia and Egypt. He says, “What emerges from this identity construction process is a hybrid youth that is acutely aware of global discourses of development and democracy and at the same time in touch with the local dimensions of exclusion and disempowerment.” Being part of a protest is seen as cool in youth culture, unlike the more differential attitudes of older generations. Using Twitter, Facebook and texting they use their technical expertise to organize leaderless uprisings, joined by poor uneducated youth as in Mozambique. For example, food riots occurred in Mozambique in 2010 and protests against cuts in fuel subsidies in Nigeria in 2012. As in other youth uprisings, music, dancing and humor were on stage at protests. The problem arises when negotiating a settlement with the government without leaders and specific demands, so the organized old guard moves in as the military did in Egypt after the revolution and the unions did in Nigeria. Isilade is optimistic that “Africa is at last showing signs of emerging from its underdevelopment.”

What’s on the Minds of Arab Youth 18 Months After the Revolutions: A 2012 Survey

Need for financial security may trump desire for democracy, as evidenced in 2012 interviews with 2,500 Arab youth, ages 18 to 24 (60% male). The emphasis on democracy dropped from 68% to 58% in 2012; however in Egypt 75% of youth view it as very important. Youth unemployment in the region is 25%, the cost of living is rising and foreign investment is decreasing. A year after the Arab Spring, top priority changed from wanting to live in a democracy to desire for fair pay (82% said it is very important) and wanting to own a home (65%). This goal of homeownership is similar to a large survey of 25,000 young people in 2010 cited elsewhere, indicating a global desire for security in recession. The other country where they would most like to live is modern UAE with its high standard of living and a ruling family. Youth point to the two biggest obstacles facing them and the region as lack of democracy and civil unrest, so they’re still very focused on liberty. (Their second biggest concern is the danger of drugs.) There are much more likely to keep up with the news and to blog on the Internet than before the revolutions. Despite economic troubles, like young people elsewhere, Arab youth are optimistic about their futures. In Egypt, optimism jumped from 38% in 2011 to 74% in 2012.

How do Arab youth evaluate the revolutions a year after? Favorably. In 2012 interviews with 2,500 Arab youth from throughout the Middle East, ages 18 to 24 (60% male), 72% feel strongly that the region is better off because of the Arab Spring and 68% feel they are personally better off. Eighteen months after the beginning of the Arab Spring, they report that their government has become more transparent, although they’re more concerned about corruption than in interviews the year before the uprisings. Egyptian youth are especially concerned about corruption as the biggest problem (66%). An amazing jump from 18% in 2011 to 62% the following year say they follow the news daily and the number to blog has increased from 29% to 61%. Despite their positive views about the democracy movements, only 24% believe that protest movements will spread to other countries. Despite all the turmoil after ousting the dictators, youth are still supportive of democratic change.

Muslim countries have traditional values, but even there some change is occurring. In 2012 interviews with 2,500 Arab youth in 12 countries, ages 18 to 24 (60% male), 65% agree that “traditional values are paramount” down from 83% who agreed in 2011. The most traditional countries are Libya, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. The percent who believe these values are outdated is increasing, including 44% of youth from Tunisia, 42% in Iraq, 41% in Jordan and Qatar. When asked about their top concerns, in Oman 52% say they are very concerned about opportunities for women.

“A White Paper on the Findings of the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2012,”  Interviews with 2,500 Arab youth ages 18 to 24 (60% male) in 12 countries.



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