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bird TenX: 10 influential youth activists shaping the African electoral climate

WITH Bassirou Diomaye Faye, the youngest ever elected African president, serving as a symbol of youthful leadership, and a surge in young demographics increasingly prominent in mainstream politics, youth electoral activism is gaining momentum in countries like Ghana and Eswatini.

These nations are experiencing renewed discussions and movements surrounding elections and civic engagement among the youth. With more than a third of African countries heading to the electoral booth in 2024, youth electoral activism is gaining a spotlight in countries like Ghana and Eswatini, where the youth have revived discussions and movements around elections and civic engagement.

1. Hardi Yakubu – Nkrumaist activist and Pan-African organiser, Ghana
Also known as Fighter-General, Yakubu is an activist and advocate for fundamental change in Ghana. With a background in sociology and project management, he mobilizes people for political, social, and economic transformation as coordinator of Africans Rising, a Pan-African movement.

According to the Africa Report, Yakubu considers himself a Nkrumaist and envisions a united Africa that guarantees economic freedom for all people of African descent.


2. Aya Chebbi, Former African Union Youth Envoy, Tunisia
A celebrated pan-African feminist, Chebbi was a leading advocate for democracy and garnered international recognition as a political blogger during Tunisia’s Revolution in 2010/2011. She was a nominee in the 2019 Gates Foundation Campaign Award, and featured in Forbes’ Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women and New African Magazine’s List of 100 Most Influential Africans.

Chebbi is the founder of Nala Feminist Collective, which seeks to bridge the gap between policy and implementation for women in Africa and in the diaspora.

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3. Evan Mawarire – Zimbabwean pastor and democratic activist
Known for the #ThisFlag movement, Mawarire was one of the leading voices in the 2016-17 Zimbabwe protests that challenged the rule of Robert Mugabe’s government. He founded the #ThisFlag movement, a democracy movement in Zimbabwe, that was geared to oust the government of President Robert Mugabe. Mawarire was arrested multiple times for inciting violence, subversion, and trying to overthrow Robert Mugabe. He was acquitted in 2017.

4. Farida Nabourema – political activist and founder of the Faure Must Go movement, Togo
Farida Bemba Nabourema is a Togolese activist who fights for human rights and democracy. She was particularly outspoken about and against the Gnassingbé dynasty. She is the executive director of the Togolese Civil League, and uses her writing and social media presence to condemn corruption, dictatorships, and inequality.
Nabourema was a 2021 Inclusive Global Leadership Initiative (IGLI) practitioner and taught a course on “Resisting Authoritarianism in the Digital Age.”

5. Alaa Salah – political activist, Sudan
Hailed as the “Nubian Queen of the Revolution,” and arguably one of the youngest activists currently, Salah gained prominence for her pivotal role in the 2019 Sudanese Revolution, which resulted in the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir from power. She emerged as a symbol of the protest movement when a viral photo captured her leading chants during the demonstrations, solidifying her status as an icon of resistance and activism.
She was shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

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6. Zineb El Rhazoui – Journalist, Morocco
El Rhazoui is a Moroccan-French journalist and activist known for her advocacy for human rights and freedom of speech. She has been critical of authoritarianism and religious extremism in Morocco, which has seen her face persecution.

El Rhazoui is vocal about Islam and its compatibility with human rights.

7. Manqoba Motsa – Political activist, Eswatini
With a staggering 58% youth unemployment rate, discontent has been rising in this small African country, with political activist groups taking charge. At the forefront of one such movement is Manqoba Motsa, a senior college student, advocating for the abolition of the last constitutional monarchy. Political parties were banned in 1972 by the king’s father, making democracy impossible but independent candidates can still run, which makes Motsa’s work particularly important and urgent.

8. Wadi Ben-Hirki – Founder, Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation (WBHF), Nigeria
Through her Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation (WBHF), Hirki is dedicated to providing education for underprivileged children through the Street2School initiative, advocating against challenges faced by marginalized girls through GirlsNotWives. She also supports survivors of the Boko Haram insurgency with LITMOW (Love in the Midst of War).
Through her #NotTooYoungToRun and #ThePowerOf18 Campaigns, she advocates for youth and women’s inclusion and participation in politics and governance.

9. Boniface Mwangi – Political activist, Kenya
Popularly referred to as the People’s Watchman, Boniface Mwangi is a Kenyan photojournalist, activist, and politician. He is known for his advocacy against corruption, impunity, and human rights abuses in Kenya and covered the 2007 post-election violence through his Picha Mtaani project. He founded Pawa254, a platform for social and political activism through art and media.

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10. Emmanuel Zulu – Zambian activist
To raise awareness on transparency and accountability in leadership, Zulu embarked on a 255-mile walk from his hometown to Zambia’s capital in November 2021. During his journey, he spoke to other young people, encouraging their active participation in shaping their government. Zulu embodies the belief that “there is nothing that can be done for you without you,” highlighting the importance of marginalized groups taking charge to achieve their rights.


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