Kenya protests echo a year of youth uprisings across Africa

Protesters hold stones during a demonstration over police killings of people protesting against the imposition of tax hikes by the government, in Nairobi, Kenya, July 2, 2024. REUTERS/John Muchucha

Protesters hold stones during a demonstration over police killings of people protesting against the imposition of tax hikes by the government, in Nairobi, Kenya, July 2, 2024. REUTERS/John Muchucha

What’s the context?

Africa's protest movements are growing in the world's youngest continent, where 70% of the population are under the age of 30

  • 70% of Africa's population under the age of 30
  • Youth lead protests against corruption, cost of living
  • Protesters often face police brutality

JOHANNESBURG/LAGOS/NAIROBI – The #EndSARS protests in Nigeria, #FeesMustFall protests in South Africa and now the #RejectFinanceBill2024 protests in Kenya all have one thing in common - the organising, chanting and marching were led by young people.

Kenya's protests made international headlines last week after thousands of Gen Z and millennial demonstrators took to the streets in major cities demanding the withdrawal of a new finance bill that included a slew of higher taxes.

At least 39 protesters were killed. Rights groups accused Kenya's security forces of using excessive force. Even though President William Ruto has reversed course on the bill, some protesters continued to call for his resignation.

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Kenyan protestors at a anti-finance bill protest in Nairobi, Kenya on June 25, 2024. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Nita Bhalla
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From Uganda to Mozambique, Africa's youth-led movements are growing on the youngest continent in the world, where 70% of the population are under the age of 30.

The average age of a president in Africa is 62, and young protesters say they are frustrated with an aging leadership that does not hear their growing calls for change.

Here are some youth-led protests across the continent from this past year that you may not have heard of:

Senegalese youth challenge election delay

In February, young people in Senegal, where more than 60% of the population is under 25, led nationwide anti-government protests after a decision to delay a highly anticipated presidential vote from February to December.

What began on university campuses soon spread to the streets of major cities.

Demonstrators, including children, rejected former President Macky Sall's 10-month vote delay, which many said threatened the country's longstanding democracy.

Sall eventually reversed the decision to stall the vote, paving the way for the election of Africa's youngest leader, Bassirou Diomaye Faye.

Senegalese demonstrators protest against the postponement of the Feb. 25 presidential election, in Dakar, Senegal February 9, 2024. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Senegalese demonstrators protest against the postponement of the Feb. 25 presidential election, in Dakar, Senegal February 9, 2024. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Senegalese demonstrators protest against the postponement of the Feb. 25 presidential election, in Dakar, Senegal February 9, 2024. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Ugandan climate activists face harassment

Young climate activists from Uganda are at the forefront of pushing back against the proposed East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which would ship crude from Lake Albert in Uganda to a port on Tanzania's Indian Ocean coast.

Activists campaigning against the environmental and social impacts of EACOP have been beaten and arrested, and faced online surveillance and abductions, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Emboldened by Kenya's anti-finance bill protests, neighbouring Ugandans have also taken to social media to spur a similar pushback against their government, planning a march to parliament on July 23 to call out government corruption.


Police officers detain a Ugandan activist participating in a demonstration over proposed plans by Total Energies and the Ugandan government to build the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), in Kampala, Uganda September 15, 2023. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa

Police officers detain a Ugandan activist participating in a demonstration over proposed plans by Total Energies and the Ugandan government to build the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), in Kampala, Uganda September 15, 2023. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa

Police officers detain a Ugandan activist participating in a demonstration over proposed plans by Total Energies and the Ugandan government to build the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), in Kampala, Uganda September 15, 2023. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa

Mozambican rapper's death sparks uprising

The death of a politically outspoken rapper, Azagaia, prompted thousands of young protesters to take to the streets in March last year to mourn and challenge corruption, the cost of living and social injustice - themes the 38-year-old had rapped about.

Youth organisations in Maputo, Beira, Nampula and other major cities organised marches in Azagaia's honour with placards displaying his lyrics calling for change.

Videos showed police beating, tear gassing and arresting protesters. Rights groups called for an impartial investigation into police actions, but despite promises to investigate, authorities did not publish any report on the violence.

Zimbabwean students rally for opposition leaders

Young Zimbabweans have marched and protested on multiple occasions against the long-ruling ZANU-PF party's hold on power.

Similar to other African nations, about 60% of Zimbabwe's population are below the age of 25.

In May last year, six students were arrested for staging a peaceful protest in the country's capital Harare where they called for an end to the persecution of opposition politicians.

The arrests sparked calls for their release from human rights groups around the world, including Amnesty International.

One month later, the charges were dropped and the students were released.

Ghana's youth demand economic reforms

As Ghana battled its worst economic crisis in a generation, the #OccupyJulorHouse protests, led by hundreds of young demonstrators, erupted in September last year.

Police blocked roads and detained dozens of protesters who tried to approach Jubilee House, the seat of the presidency in the capital Accra.

The gold, oil and cocoa-producing nation had secured a $3 billion, three-year loan with the International Monetary Fund, but critics said previous programme had failed to tackle the cost-of-living crisis due to corruption and mismanagement.

Ghana's finance minister was replaced in cabinet reshuffle six months after the protests.

(Reporting by Kim Harrisberg in Johannesburg, Bukola Adebayo in Lagos, Nita Bhalla in Nairobi; Editing by Jon Hemming.)


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Tags

  • Unemployment
  • Pay gaps
  • Wealth inequality
  • Poverty
  • Youth climate movement
  • Cost of living

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