Insights from the Common Futures Conversations Survey

Chatham House
Aug 12 · 6 min read
Students during a strike as part of a global day of student protests aiming to spark world leaders into action on climate change in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: Getty Images.

This post is part of a series reflecting on the results of the Common Futures Conversations survey of 3,487 young people from 13 countries across Africa and Europe. We asked three of the young people involved in helping develop the survey to reflect on what they perceived as the main similarities and differences between the responses of African and European respondents to the survey. All responses have been edited for clarity.

Lucy Fagan — UK

I expected the survey would reveal a few similarities between the two continents but that it would principally show that youth in Africa and Europe prioritized different issues.

I was surprised by the similarities among respondents across both continents specifically in reference to issues like corruption. While it was quite shocking to see just how many young people from across Africa felt like corruption was a big challenge, it was even more surprising to see that a large number of European respondents also said corruption was an issue facing their nation. This is in stark contrast to the idea that many people hold of Europe and is indicative of the diversity of the continent. There are many countries with different political and social realities even within the European continent. This is an important reminder and hopefully a knowledge gap we can bridge on the Common Futures Conversations platform. (Fig. 6)

In terms of the differences that intrigued me, I was surprised that there was such a difference between how respondents in Africa and Europe prioritized the issue of unemployment. Among African respondents it was seen as a major challenge but seemingly not so much for the European ones. It struck me as interesting because I know that there are significant challenges in Africa around unemployment, but in Europe, and the UK specifically, I know the job market is a big issue facing young people.

The other difference I found notable was how respondents ranked climate change. Most European respondents selected climate change as the issue they most wanted to talk to people in their age group about. But this was not the response in Africa. This was compelling because climate change is such a big issue in Europe so it was interesting to see that the issue didn’t rank so highly in Africa. In the last couple years, climate change has rapidly risen on the political agenda in Europe. If go you go anywhere in Europe, young people are talking about climate change, they are angry and motivated to act. (Fig. 2)

Jean Désiré Kouassi — Côte d’Ivoire

It was interesting to see that poverty was a priority for respondents in both Europe and Africa. If you look at what Africans said, the problem that they felt most pressing was poverty. To compare responses, 23 per cent of African respondents said this and 22 per cent of Europeans. I had never previously thought that poverty was conceived to be a cross-cutting issue across Africa and Europe. In the past poverty has been an issue that is much more synonymous with Africa so I thought it positive to see that it was also something that youth in Europe were concerned about. It’s an interesting challenge to the assumption that poverty is exclusively an issue in the developing world. (Fig. 8)

But the issue of poverty is not singular — it is part of a mutually reinforcing cycle involving other issues like education, employment and migration. For example, when we interviewed people for the survey, they said that people are poor because they are not educated or the education they received is not adaptable to their job. Poverty for them is just the result or the impact produced by unemployment or the lack of education.

Salome Nthenya — Kenya

When I looked at the results, the first thing I noticed was the difference between the issues prioritized by African and European respondents. It made me wonder if the reason for the disparity in prioritization was because Europeans have managed to already tackle some of the primary challenges the African continent is facing?

Take for example unemployment. It came out as very conspicuous among African respondents compared to European ones which indicated to me that African youth are really struggling a lot with unemployment while Europeans are not.

I was surprised the issue of health was not prioritized by more respondents because I see it as a very serious issue especially in Africa. In Kenya, it is a very serious challenge. Access to health care and public hospitals is difficult to get, the availability of medicine and medical equipment is unreliable and the ratio of doctors to patients is extremely small. Before going to a public hospital, you think, if I go, I will have to line up, may not even see a doctor and, even if I do, I might not get any medicine. So, it was especially interesting to me, given this experience, that young people did not want to speak about health. (Fig. 3)

The most striking difference I saw in the survey results was the difference in the frequency that African and European respondents travelled. According to the survey results, African respondents don’t travel out their country — much less outside the continent. While Europeans also did not report high levels of travel outside Europe, they did travel outside their own countries at a much higher rate than African respondents. While no doubt it is related to economics, I thought at a deeper level it was related to access. It is much harder for Africans to travel to Europe than for Europeans to travel to Africa because of visa restrictions and immigration rules. When we travelled to Ethiopia for the second Common Futures Conversations workshop, I don’t think there was a single European delegate who had an issue coming to Ethiopia. Their visas were just issued on arrival here. The difference in barriers is astounding.


This is the fourth of six blogposts exploring some of the insights from the 2019 Common Futures Conversations Youth Survey.

To read the rest of the blog series, click here. To read the full survey results, please download the briefing.

The Common Futures Conversations project is developing an online platform to facilitate dialogue between young people and policymakers in Africa and Europe. For more information, please visit the website.

Common Futures Conversations is a collaboration between Chatham House and Robert Bosch Stiftung.

Chatham House

The Royal Institute of International Affairs. An independent policy institute with a mission to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.

Chatham House

Written by

The Royal Institute of International Affairs. An independent policy institute with a mission to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.

Chatham House

The Royal Institute of International Affairs. An independent policy institute with a mission to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.

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