Social capital and active citizenship in Zimbabwean youth: Changes from 2012 to 2017

Executive Summary

Social capital has become a concept of growing interest in the past two decades. The presence of a high degree of social capital is argued to be one of the strong underpinnings of democracy, and the presence of varieties of civic and social associations is assumed to contribute to more active citizenship. In the West at least, there is increasing concern about the declining participation of citizens in elections, together with concern that citizens are also less interested in participating in social and civic networks and associations. This is interpreted as the effect of declining social capital.

Very little study of social capital has been carried in Zimbabwe, although it is implicit in the many and wide-ranging studies and discussions about the role of communities in Zimbabwean civic life. A previous examination of social capital as one aspect of active citizenship suggested that the component of social capital, trust, operated differently between rural and urban citizens (RAU. 2015). Trust was defined as either intimate, about relationships with other citizens, or institutional, about relationships between citizens and duty bearers.

Two more recent studies on the role of social capital in women suggested that the methodology could be usefully applied to the youth (RAU. 2018 (a); RAU. 2018 (b)). For these studies, a measure of social capital was constructed using six questions common to all three rounds of the Afrobarometer (2012, 2014, and 2017), and this was tested against seven measures of public interest and participation, as well as four demographic variables (age, residence, employment and education). These studies showed good relationships between social capital and measures of political interest and participation, but there were marked difference between rural and urban women. Social capital, as we defined this, is a property of rural rather than urban women. However, social capital is not a static property of individuals and communities and clearly varies both over time and due to socio-political events.

Thus, we used the same methodology to examine whether social capital operated in similar fashion with Zimbabwean youth.

Source: Research and Advocacy Unit

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