How do they perceive the State?

Although the State is objectively present, some young people feel that it is absent or often perceive it as problematic  

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CAPEG

 Although the State is objectively present, some young people feel that it is absent or often perceive it as problematic

Two cases arise: either young people are not aware of the presence of the State, or they cannot recognize any tangible sign of its presence. The first case is justified by the fact that many young people do not link the presence of the State to certain public services such as health or education. In the second case, the feeling of absence of the State as in Diffa is symbolized by the absence of Defence and Security Forces in certain areas, particularly in the Lake Chad region, a situation which led many young people to organize self-defence groups.

In addition, many young people adopt alternative forms of identification with the terroir when they do not perceive the presence of the State. This is the case in some cross-border areas of Maradi, Zinder and Diffa where the crisis of belonging to the national territory has emerged in some young people. The State therefore needs to strengthen its presence, the legibility and perceived utility of its actions through better government communication. In contexts where the State is perceived as absent, it is necessary to find alternative forms of representation by further promoting decentralization and the delegation of public services.

When young people mention the presence of the State, they often perceive it as posing a problem. Indeed, young people feel that the State does not know how to be useful in its interventions. Public policies are either conducted in a coercive or inhibitory way, or they are implemented without including young people, who do not feel involved or listened to. Young people are going through a crisis of representation, are not able to understand the actions of the State, and feel a breach of trust vis-à-vis public action.

At the same time, the quality and relevance of public services are questioned by young people. For instance, they perceive the positive dynamics generated by vocational training centres and public schools, but they feel that they are insufficient and do not respond adequately to their aspirations. On the other hand, young people see taxation as a constraint to achieving their aspirations. Their perception is that they do not benefit from the taxes they pay and that their contributions are diverted.

Finally, the closer one gets to the central government, the higher the expectations young people have vis-à-vis the State. The youth's feeling of social injustice resulting from the politicization of Niger’s public administration opens the door to negative behaviours or distrust towards the State (destruction of public property in response to an administrative decision) or at-risk-behaviours (crime, prostitution, robbery).

Overall, it is the way in which the State implements its policies and the low utility of the latter that are not understood by the young person. In fact, the state has been concerned with executing policies rather than communicating with the people. However, it is when the rules of the game are not clear or when young people do not have a way to exercise citizen control over the actions of the State, that suspicions and misunderstandings settle in the minds of young people.

Policy implications:

In terms of policy, initiatives need to be promoted to build better government communication so that young people can be informed on policy rationale and can commit to supporting the development process. Moreover, the State must rethink how to build a constructive citizenship around the quality of public service delivery and the idea of accountability. Finally, policy engineering needs to be inclusive and advocate for transparency in the delivery of services.