The Politics of 'big men': Role of Women and Youth in Democracy

African countries have made considerable advances in increasing women’s participation in governance. Countries like Rwanda and South Africa, for example, have some of the highest levels of female representation in the world. Through legislation, constitutional amendments, and grassroots demand many African countries have made women representation tangible. However, women are still severely underrepresented in government and more than that, having a seat in parliament does not necessarily mean access to the political capital needed to make key policy decisions. Women are the backbone of many African economies by increasingly becoming breadwinners for households and continuing to contribute to the informal economy. It is women who bear the highest social cost of poor governance and corruption and yet they are explicitly or implicitly excluded from spaces of leadership and policymaking. This panel will answer the following questions:

  • How can women in the continent wield their power to garner better policies and governance?
  • In what ways can women, especially young women, gain access to spaces of influence and policymaking?
  • What are the formal and informal systems that can propel or create barriers to women accessing key positions of leadership?
  • What role can women play outside of politics to contribute to creating good governance and holding government accountable?



Development in Africa is stagnating due to poor leadership and policy choices from political parties. Political parties offer elected leadership which runs governments and policies from manifestos are badly managed and fail to attract competent individuals. Despite the central role that political parties play in selection of leadership very little support is offered in ensuring that quality policies and leadership emerges. There are no institutions, organization private and non-state actors that provide adequate support to improve political parties. A snap survey across the continent shows how; political parties are struggling with intra party democracy from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. The panel will discuss the following:

  • The crisis of political parties in Africa
  • How private sector development partners can assist in strengthening political parties
  • Mechanisms of attractive quality leadership that can help shape progressive policies to push for development


More panels to be announced soon