Youth Vulnerability and Exclusion (YOVEX) PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 03 March 2009 13:40


In 2006, CSDG began an exploratory, pilot study of youth exclusion and vulnerability (YOVEX) in West Africa. The YOVEX study was designed to interrogate the socio-economic, political, and cultural plight of young people, and to assess state-led and non-state processes, initiatives and services to see the extent to which they meet the needs and aspirations of youth.

The outbreak of civil war, low intensity conflict and intermittent street-level political violence in many African countries (especially in West Africa), and the centrality of young people in these events since 1990 has provoked increasing interest and concern about youth and the youth bulge in civil and political circles. Against this backdrop, the project is intended to generate empirical data about how countries, societies and youth are coping or not coping with an expected ‘youth bulge’, and to propose evidence-based policy options and recommendations for local and international stakeholders.

Research questions

The YOVEX study is rooted in a straightforward hypothesis: youth exclusion and vulnerability are major challenges to development and security. It is guided by four major themes: (i) youth identity, (ii) context of vulnerability and exclusion, (iii) coping mechanisms, and (iv) social outcomes. The research will explore six specific propositions:

First, that Youth in West Africa is defined by local realities as opposed to international standards, and more by socio-economic and political circumstances, as opposed to age;

Second, that youth exclusion and vulnerability is a derivative of the country’s governance context/environment;

Third, that existing government youth programmes are supply driven, unresponsive and short lived: they do not target, leverage and upscale the successful and durable initiatives of private/voluntary sectors;

Fourth, that youth exercise considerable social agency and creativity in coping with their exclusion and vulnerability: through activities outside the realm of the state (sports/music, religion-faith, armed groups and informal economic domains);

Fifth, that youth exclusion and vulnerability does not necessarily generate or lead to vulnerability and violent outcomes: informal structures, institutions and processes mediate the interface between youth exclusion and social outcomes;

Sixth, that more than national conditions, the local enabling environment determines whether the scattered energies of Africa’s youth are channelled towards peaceful or violent pursuits.


The project employed qualitative surveys and interpretation of events without discounting the use and importance of quantitative indicators. Case studies were carried out of the following countries: Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Three methods were used to gather data: questionnaires, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. The formats, contents and structures of these methods were varied and adapted to local dynamics in each of the case studies.

The target population was clustered to reflect the diversity of youth and their experiences. The study’s methodological orientation is aimed at, first, examining, understanding and documenting the coping mechanisms, resources and initiatives that sustain youth in a context where poorly designed policies and the inactions of formal, state institutions have generated and increased exclusion and vulnerability; and second, presenting and projecting the voices of youth in Africa (by observing and listening to them) in order to discover promising entry points for public, private and voluntary initiatives. The presumption is that youth-based actions would create new dynamics, open up new opportunities and mobilize scattered energies and skills towards security and development.

This study was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). For further information, contact: Olawale Ismail – This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The results of the YOVEX study are available both in written and in video form.

Ghana - Main report

Guinea - Main report

Liberia - Main report

Mali - Main report

Niger - Main report

Nigeria - Main report

Sierra Leone -Main report