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International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Soceity


Young people constitute a disproportionate share of the population in most African countries, and as such, make up a key political demographic. The discourse on youth political participation tends to focus narrowly on disengaged, apathetic and troublesome youth. Yet, many African youth have taken on leadership positions across the continent, engaging in politics, civil society, and activism. This article seeks an understanding of what drives their public engagement. Drawing on a qualitative study of 33 leaders across Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda, we argue that a range of individual, relational, and societal factors entwine and build on each other to foster youth leadership. Drawing on the socialization literature, we explore individual-level determinants of engagement, including family, educational experiences, purposive incentives, and identity. We go further than earlier research to explore the unique ways that these, along with the complex relational ties that undergird neopatrimonialism, as well as political opportunities, can work together to build young leaders in the public sphere.

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