Civil society in Africa
Sudan′s young people roll up their sleeves

Sudan′s younger generation has already faced all manner of crises, from the conflicts and struggles of a country in the process of breaking apart, economic crises, to problems in health and education. It′s a generation that anticipates the worst and has no concept of peace. But idle? Hardly. By Abdul Salam al-Haj

While the older generation in Sudan enjoyed a settled life and permanent jobs, in which the civil service and the public sector flourished, today′s youth are experiencing everything that′s wrong in the way of economic decline and a 19.6% rise in unemployment in 2017. The military coups which Sudan has witnessed reflect an accumulation of these factors, pushing society towards insubordination. They can either be seen as an attempt to assert power by force or, at the very least, as a repudiation.   

"Six years ago, I was someone with simple and run-of-the-mill aspirations, but after I began volunteering, my ideas changed considerably." With this confident statement, Khaled Siraj, the 20-year-old, begins his voluntary work. Khaled works for Education without Borders (Sudan). In recent years, voluntary work has become very popular among young people in Sudan. There are volunteers currently operating in over 4,000 organisations and voluntary groups in a host of fields across the country – education, health, culture and arts, emergency relief and disaster prevention. There are also many agencies, associations and youth centres which are active in the field of capacity building among young people, including the Bridge to Development Centre, the Youth Forum Organisation and Yalla Sudan.

The Voluntary Associations Law in Sudan was promulgated in 1957 in order to regulate and register voluntary charitable societies. With the development and diversification of social life, the volunteering movement expanded and grew, leading to a multiplicity of associations, organisations and initiatives.

Everything changed, however, when the Islamists came to power in a military coup in 1989. In the years that followed, voluntary activities were cut back, as the government shut down a number of organisations involved in Sudanese civil society. Now, however, it would appear that voluntary work in Sudan is enjoying something of a golden age. It enjoys wide support across society and is proving successful in engaging Sudanese youth.

Voluntary work in Khartoum, Sudan (photo: C. Faris Elshegil)
Voluntary work sows seed of action among the younger generation: "it′s just one way for young people to restructure Sudanese society," says Education Without Borders volunteer Khaled Siraj, who doesn′t believe the intergenerational struggle is a major problem

Generally speaking, however, life in Sudan has taken a turn for the worse. The institutional and political structures continue to deteriorate from year to year, driving young people to look for alternative lifestyle solutions, including voluntary activity. In terms of social media, however, it has been possible to make significant advances for little outlay.

Prosperity and growth

Some researchers into civil society regard volunteering as a sign of national prosperity. In this context, one of their number, Dr. Abdul Rahim Bilal, has observed that "Sudan is blessed with a huge reservoir of positive spirit and voluntary organisations, or what development literature these days calls social capital. The challenge is investing this social capital in an intellectual revolution, a revolution of technical and behavioural efficiency. This is essential in order to implement policies based on science and practical experience that serve the interests of the general public."

More on this topic