Africa is now the world’s youngest continent. Creating jobs and opportunities for young people has become one of the concerns at the top of the list of the development agenda in basically every country on the continent (Filmer et al. 2014). The African Youth Charter (African Union Commission 2006:1) asserts that “Africa’s greatest resource is its youthful population and through their active and full participation, Africans can surmount the difficulties that lie ahead”.

Recognition of the importance of the youth is growing as the youth are seen as “the future of our societies”, and fostering their participation in governance is viewed as key for the functionality of democracies (Pereznieto & Harding, 2013).This can also help in the attainment of internationally agreed development targets (UNDP and DESA, 2016). Despite such positive sentiments, the youth are disproportionately affected by the myriad of governance challenges facing the continent of Africa, stemming from high unemployment, inadequate social safety nets, political violence and civil unrest. According to Chikwanha and Masunungure (2007), age, along with gender, is a central cultural variable in defining social and political relationships. It acts as a pivotal basis for the hierarchical organisation of families and communities. According to Action Aid (2013), the Zimbabwean youth are relatively optimistic in their hope of participating in democratic governance spaces, but risk disappointment by the political field. This does not afford the youth room to participate and be elected as representatives in parliament and local councils.

Efforts aimed at consulting the youth have largely failed to yield the outcomes desired by the youth in addressing youth priorities . Furthermore, evidence from literature shows that adverse inclusion of the youth in politics, political violence, and the marginalisation of the youth narrative is unhealthy for social cohesion. This may lead to anomie, which, according to Powell (1996), a is a product of increased individual dislocation from societal institutions. Andersson (2012) posits that engagement of the citizenry in political conversation is a “prerequisite” for social cohesion. This suggests that a connection between the absence of citizen engagement and anomie can be identified. This can leave the youth frustrated and in search of alternative platforms for expression and participation. Under such conditions, youth may become concentrated in anomic participation, where their efforts at increasing accountability from governments (Pereznieto & Harding, 2013), or informing policy (Walker & Pereznieto, 2015), are not valued by the policy practitioners especially governments.

This paper argues that the continued restriction of voice and active citizenship among youth is a major driver of anomie and anomie-driven forms of youth participation. The paper posits that demonstrations, protests and exit (including apathy) are manifestations of anomie rather than voice.

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