Boosting Voter Participation in Democracy

Exploring Africa's Dynamic Population and Electoral Challenges

Close up image of plastic container, with inscription on a plastic table-voting concept.

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Embarking on a mission to unravel the intricacies of democracy and youth disengagement in the electoral process, Reality Check emerges as a civic education and online debate platform that will be available in podcast and video formats. The main question it wants to answer is: Why are countless young individuals opting out of the election process?

In a world grappling with a global onslaught on democratic values—manifested in anti-immigration rhetoric, xenophobia, populism, and ethno-nationalism—Africa, despite its dynamic youth population finds itself not immune to these trends. With over 60% of Africa's population under the age of 25 and projections indicating that young Africans will constitute a staggering 42% of global youth by 2030, the paradox of low youth participation in elections becomes even more glaring.

In South Africa, this trend of fewer young people voting has been consistent since the historic 1994 election. In the latest local government election in November 2021, almost 1.8 million eligible 18-19 year-olds in South Africa chose not to register to vote. Even registration rates among the 20-29 age group have been going down since 2016, showing a continued lack of interest in the election process as people move from their late teens to their twenties.

With these concerning numbers, there is a clear need for civic education and encouragement for democratic participation. The big question is: How can young voters connect their hopes for a better future with their hesitation to take part in the democratic process? Can their votes really make a difference in the world?


Reality Check Episode 1: With Redi Tlhabi and Ben Cashdan

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Reality Check plans to tackle these questions through dynamic debates and wants the audience to join in shaping a better future for everyone. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom is one of the partners in this effort, emphasizing a shared commitment to encouraging both young people and the wider public to use their right to vote.

Leading the discussions on Reality Check are Redi Tlhabi, an award-winning journalist, and Ben Cashdan, an economist and writer with experience in current affairs TV. The program will air on News24 on 1 February 2024, and the discussions will be shared on the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom's digital platforms, reaching a wide audience. The goal is clear: get involved, share your voice, and remember that democracy is not a passive activity – Reality Check is here to ensure everyone is part of the process.