Will the youth vote in 2023, for who, and why?
Zimbabwe, in common with most African countries, has a very large youth cohort, and such “bulges” are argued to have important political consequences, providing either a dividend for economic growth or a potential political disaster (RAU 2023). The youth of Zimbabwe have experienced significant and sustained adversity for the past 20 years: most, and including the well-educated, are unemployed – except in the informal sector – and have witnessed very single election since 2000 result in no political change, dispute over the results, and too frequently witnessing or experiencing political violence.
With elections taking place in August 2023, it is therefore of considerable interest to explore whether the youth will vote; how the youth might vote; and how they might react to yet another disputed election. Using the data from the Afrobarometer, these issues are examined. The data suggests the effects of political violence, sustained economic deprivation, and a lack of political trust -in the state, the government, political parties, and government officials – have resulted in a youth cohort that displays little agency. However, when it comes to voting the youth might provide a major surprise if the elections meet the conditions of a bona fide free and fair election, but it is doubtful that an election that fails their expectations will result in the youth protesting in any serious fashion.