Youth and Political Engagement in Contemporary Africa

Research summary

The research project focuses on contemporary societal changes in contexts where the rapidly growing majority of population is young, and where questions of political participation, citizenship, livelihoods and frustrations require urgent attention. It draws on empirical research in Egypt, Somalia, Tunisia, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa and reveals different aspects of what ‘politics’ may mean in unstable contexts. They differ in terms of state formation and democratic structures, post-conflict developments, NGO involvement, donor funding and global connections. The ethnographic case studies focus on forms, contents and experiences of political engagement in the everyday lives of young people – including potential de-politication, professationalization, consumerism and struggles for mundane livelihoods – in different contexts of contemporary Africa.


The four-year research project comprises of six different country-specific case studies made by individual researchers as well as a team case study in World Social Forum in Tunis 2013, and an ongoing discussion on the concepts and epistemology of studying ‘youth’, ‘politics’ and ‘contemporary Africa’ with the whole research team. The team organizes seminars related to the topics of the research, as well as writes publications both together and individually on the themes of the research project.

More information

Research publication
Project information

Research info

Research title
Youth and Political Engagement in Contemporary Africa

Research timeline
1.8.2012 - 1.8.2016

Activism citizenship civil society ethnography friendship Gender generation life-stage political engagement political participation revolutions social age social justice social movements transitions World Social Forum youth


Bouvet Island, Egypt, Finland, Kenya, Somalia, South Africa, Tunisia, Zambia

University of Helsinki
Department of Political and Economic Studies
Helsinki, Finland

Head of research
Elina Oinas and Leena Suurpää

Research team
Elina Oinas, Leena Suurpää, Sofia Laine, Eija Ranta, Henri Onodera, Petri Hautaniemi, Tiina-Maria Levamo, and Ella Alin

Finnish Youth Research Society

Contact information
Elina Oinas
+ 358 40 592 9395
Open link

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