Online Political Activism among Young People in Sub-Saharan Africa

Online Political Activism among Young People in Sub-Saharan Africa

Lusike Lynete Mukhongo (Moi University, Kenya)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch630
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The focus of the article is on Sub-Saharan Africa, which refers to countries that are geographically located south of the Sahara desert. The countries are generally categorised under four broad regions; that is eastern, southern, western and central African countries. The article focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa, which with the exception of South Africa, has been characterised by poor governance, drought, poverty, poor infrastructure, high illiteracy levels, ethnic conflicts and/or civil wars coupled with human rights abuses. The myriad challenges have subsequently affected the access and utilisation of media for civic engagement by young people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition, the media as an institution in Sub-Saharan Africa has also borne the brunt of state terror domination, terror and harassment (Mukhongo, 2009). This has been witnessed in countries such as Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Cameroon. However, during the 1990s, a period which has also been termed as the second liberation of Africa, the media underwent great changes, witnessing its involvement in renewed calls for press freedom and democratic governance in Sub-Saharan Africa (Mukhongo, 2010). Consequently, a look at the history of media in Kenya, Sierra Leone and Ghana, reveals an institution that has played a key role in contributing to political reforms and democratic change (Mukhongo, 2009). As a result, governments in Sub-Saharan Africa are becoming more tolerant towards the media. Unfortunately, unlike print media, electronic media has remained under strict government control and ownership, and therefore the Sub-Saharan governments still have enormous control over the media and its coverage of political news (Mukhongo, 2009). This has been the case in countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Angola. In South Sudan, after 22 years of civil war, the government has committed itself to improve press freedom and guarantee the freedom of expressions of the citizens, however security forces still hold a lot of power in the nation, and so have a lot of leeway to manipulate and control the media.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Institutional Political Participation: Political activities that are institutionalised guaranteed by the constitution and provided for by existing political institutions. They include voter registration, membership of political parties and voting during referendums and elections.

Extra-Institutional Political Participation: Political activities that are not institutionalised and provided for by the government. They include online protests, signing online petitions and mobilising users online to boycott certain products they consider to be promoting the status quo or promote the very issues that the youth are lobbying against.

Political Activism: Use of active and coercive online initiatives and campaigns to create awareness about political issues and/or promote political reforms.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Countries that lie south of the Sahara. However, for purposes of this article, South Sudan is categorised as a Sub-Saharan country while, Sudan is not included in Sub Saharan Africa, but it is categorised as a country in North Africa.

Social media: Internet applications used to promote exchanges and interactions among users on virtual platforms, by enabling them to not only be users, but also producers of information that can be shared, exchanged and distributed online.

Web 2.0: An interactive format that offers users diverse options for appropriation and use and, allows for user generated content, unlike the previous web 1.0 that was based on a top-down and static web site use.

Social Network Sites (SNS): The term social network sites generally refers to a network of users who share information using chat rooms, threads and discussion forums, based on social media platforms.

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