Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا


Conference Report : Youth, Social Movements and Social Networks in Africa

Tunisia – Tunis, 4-5 August, 2014

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ABSTRACT

In partnership with the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Tunis, CODESRIA held on 4 and 5 August, 2014 in Tunis an international conference on the theme: Youth, social movements and social networks in Africa. This conference brought together researchers, scholars and people from civil society organizations from various African countries to reflect on the issues and challenges facing today’s African youth. These issues and challenges especially relate to the effect of the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on African youth, their involvement in social movements and networks, their dynamics of citizen action and political participation, their identity reinvention process, their stance in public debates. The papers presented helped to identify the diversified profile of this youth, as well as to address other issues related to sexuality and intimacy.

INTRODUCTION

Within the framework of its Child and Youth Studies Program, the Council for the
Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) held from 4 to 5 August, 2014 at the Hotel Belvedere in Tunis, an international conference on Youth, social movements and social networks in Africa. This conference was part of CODESRIA’s efforts to provide to African researchers and intellectuals interested in children and youth studies a platform to create, discuss and disseminate theoretically innovative and empirically informed work on continent’s children and youth.

Indeed, since the end of the Cold War which saw the triumph of liberal democracy and
capitalist market economy, Africa has been the scene of major stirs and upheavals which have had a considerable impact on youth. Democratization, decentralization, wholesale privatization and liberalization, ushered or imposed and often imperfectly controlled, resulted in the reconfiguring of the socio-political, economic and cultural landscape in the postcolonial state. It was followed by the meteoric rise of new spaces of expression and contestation at national, sub-national or transnational levels.

From this perspective, youth, through networks and associational movements, have
influenced many of these processes, which in turn have impacted, like a boomerang, how youth redefine their existential trajectory to give (again) meaning to their lives. Such processes of massive redeployment of African youth in search of a new way of being, understanding and represent themselves, and a way of interacting with themselves and with the society, have increased with the advent of ICTs.

Therefore, it is shown that youth associational life, activism and modes of selfrepresentation modes on the African continent are particularly influenced by the global ICT revolution. Such a revolution is said to have increased the arsenal that the youth deploy to make space for self-actualization and self-governmentality. This idea seems to be reinforced by the fact that, besides the dangers to which they expose African youth (national and transnational crime, cybercrime, cyber pornography, etc.), information and communication technologies are modern and unprecedented tools for convening information, communication, propaganda and mobilization that the African youth is exploring and making the most of. Far from being passive consumer of ICTs and other social media, African youth are contributing actively to hardware and software innovations, in a bid to create new modes of associational organizations and groups through networks that bring together different elements from local, national, transnational, sub-national or global dynamics.

It is such youth networks and social movements which CODESRIA, through the
conference in Tunis, undertook to study. The objective is to make them intelligible through a space of multidisciplinary problematizations that stands out from substantivist and fixist approaches to highlight the processes, the dynamics of youth, their openness and imaginative use of several currents and of multiple ways to represent themselves in the world. It focuses on the comparative approach and exploitation of empirical data, which in turn are as part of a relevant theorization, with a view to achieving a better readability of this social group that reconfigures our societies and intergenerational relations.

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