Music, Pop Culture and Youth Participation Ahead of 2019 ELECTIONS By Ewa Mebiri

In Africa, music plays a vital role in mobilization, sensitization, socialization and cultural transmission. Music’s immense influence was evident in the struggle for independence in most African countries. Rallies, protests, and movements were laced with music and dances; musicians released albums that were filled with contents calling for the emancipation of their countries. More recently, musicians have been promoting youth participation and leading democracy movements.

It is notable that an increasing number of musicians in Africa have shown deep commitment to democratic values in recent years.  Y’en a Marre of Senegal is an illustrative example.  In Burkina Faso, the Balai Citoyen Movement was inspired by Y’en a Marre and others in Senegal. Y’en a Marre in fact worked with fellow rappers in Burkina Faso to help strengthen the Movement.  The recent #GambiaHasDecided campaign benefited from the participation of popular musicians, such as Gee Bala-Gaye and others.  Youth groups in Nigeria have also worked with famous musicians, such as Tuface, M.I. Abaga, Banky W, and others in various campaigns.

Music plays a central role in communicating the needs and interests of the public.  It is a transcendent force that shapes culture and allows musicians’ access to the grassroots, political elites, and the mass public.  Leveraging musician’s ability to span these different terrains can be important for promoting popular youth participation as Nigerians go to the polls in February and March 2019.

Considering that people under the age of 35 constitute about 65% of Nigeria’s population, it is imperative to study the type of music they listen to, the content of such music and the impact it has on their political decisions.

An artist who produces a song tends to pass message (hence ensuring that communication is achieved) to his listeners. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, for instance, was famously known for speaking the truth in his genre of music which he was arrested for severally by the government. Fela in his time started a movement known as the ‘Black Power Movement’. A movement of the people which in one way or the other boosted political participation. Today, Femi Kuti and some other great Nigerian artists have been preaching the good news of good governance and youth participation through their songs.

Artistes are not, and cannot always be politically neutral; their art requires them to speak to and for society lyrically and in ways that can sensitize and mobilize people towards certain goals. The goal for music and popular culture towards the 2019 General Elections would be to increase youth participation. Since 2003, voter turn out has been steadily declining in Nigerian elections. 2019 provides an opportunity to reverse this trend, mobilize especially first time voters and support youth candidates.

As events activities leading up to the 2019 General Elections commence, political parties are leveraging on music and pop culture to promote youth participation and ultimately increase their votes for various candidates. Political party conventions and primaries witnessed performances from artistes and comedians and recently, one candidate during the Osun gubernatorial elections was endorsed by a popular music artiste.

Electoral management bodies Africa, such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria must also take the opportunity that music affords as a tool for mass mobilization and sensitization. As part of efforts aimed at promoting youth participation, music and pop culture should play an integral role in voter education and get-out-the-vote initiatives.

The power of music and pop culture can undoubtedly boost popular youth participation, serve as a watchdog on elected representatives, act as a tool for citizens to communicate with their government and exercise their rights at the ballot.

Music communicates to people in ways that go beyond rational argumentation. It touches their souls, and greatly impacts on their lives. When properly utilized, music can help create an opportunity for society (especially young men and women) to value their participation throughout the electoral cycle.

Ewa is a volunteer in the Youth Program at YIAGA AFRICA.


YIAGA AFRICA Statement on Africa Youth Day: Raising Youth Voices against Corruption in Africa

Africa Youth Day is a day set aside every year to promote the increased recognition of youth as key agents for social change, economic growth and sustainable development in all areas of African Society. It is an occasion to celebrate the youth on the continent, opportunity to contribute and channel youth motivation, energy and creativity towards political, social and economic renewal. The African Union theme of the year is, “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.” The Africa Youth Day theme for 2018, “Raising Youth Voices against Corruption in Africa” is in line with various decisions and declarations focusing on the engagement and development of young people.

H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission asserts that “to enable the African youth to fight against corruption, governments must provide a viable environment through the implementation of policies which favour investments in the four pillars (of Africa’s Demographic Dividend)”.

The AU Demographic Dividend Roadmap’s fourth pillar highlights the importance of ensuring participatory, representative and inclusive political processes of young people that are increasingly educated, cosmopolitan, and tech-savvy.

Corruption is the bane of any progressive society. It stifles entrepreneurship, professionalism and erodes the values of hard work and honesty, and is one of the root causes of under-development in our society.

Raising youth voices is essential for success in curbing corruption; youth represent a significant portion of the population and are generally more open to social change and political transformation, since they may have less interest in maintaining the status quo.


Against this backdrop, youth can play a pivotal role in the fight against corruption. Young people are more open to wide-scale socio-political transformation and have less vested interested in maintaining the status quo. Young people are an integral element for the success of cultural changes in attitudes and behavior towards corruption and in the shaping of the values of tomorrow, since they represent the present and future of their countries.

The Bounce Corruption Project, a nationwide campaign designed to give citizens and media a leadership role in the fight against corruption is one of the ways YIAGA AFRICA is raising youth voices against corruption in Africa. By promoting effective citizen’s oversight and mobilization for accountable governance, Bounce Corruption seeks to complement efforts by state and non-state actors in creating a zero-tolerance environment for corruption in Nigeria.

On Africa Youth Day, YIAGA Africa calls on African governments to honor their commitments and implement policies that strengthen the fight against corruption. YIAGA AFRICA calls on young Africans to rise against corruption by upholding the values of integrity and holding public officials to account.

Citizens, especially the youth population, which is Nigeria’s largest demographic to raise their voices against corruption in Nigeria.

#BetheFutureToday #BetheVibe #AfricaYouthDay #YouthAgainstCorruption




WatchingTheVote Cohort of Master Trainers pledging their Neutrality

2019 Election: YIAGA AFRICA Set to Train 822 Pre-election Observers Nationwide

Ahead of the 201 General elections, a Civil Society Organisation, YIAGA AFRICA has conclude plans to train 822 Long term observers drawn from 36 states and 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria. This was revealed by the Organisation’s Programs Manager, Cynthia Mbamalu during the training of Master Trainers who she said will be travelling to all 36 states in order to train the Pre-election observers.

According to her, as the largest citizen movement committed to credible elections in Nigeria, YIAGA AFRICA will be deploying a total of 822 Pre-election observers under is Watching The Vote project to observe and report the Pre-election environment ahead of the 2019 elections. She said this on Wednesday during training of cohort of Master Trainers in Abuja.

WTV Master Trainers according to Cynthia are cohort of experts in election observation having trained observers for the Anambra, Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections. “The Master Trainers will be training WTV a total of 822 Pre-election Observers also known as Long Term Observers on how to observe and report the Pre-election environment as the 2019 elections approaches”, she said.

She said, YIAGA AFRICA’s WatchingTheVote will be training its The LGA Supervisors who will be serving as Long Term Observers on how to observe and report preparatory activities by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Voter education campaigns by Civil Society Organisation (CSO), and National Orientation Agency (NOA), campaign activities as well as violence monitoring and reporting.”, Cynthia explained.  Voter Education, Hate speech, violence indicators, and political party campaigns will also be observed and reported accordingly. This according to her will enable the organization build an early warning system to prevent election malpractice and electoral violence.

According to her, the Nationwide training which will be held in 33 training centres across Nigeria from 5th to 9th November will also access the quality of Long Term Observers as the organization remain committed to building a community of experts on credible elections.

“For we at YIAGA AFRICA, we believe elections is a process and activities that happen before the election are as important as election day activities. Thus we continue to build a community of experts committed to credible elections through training and retraining of our cohort of Master Trainers in order to have an accurate and precise report”, she said