ROAD TO 2024 ELECTIONS
Tinder-like matchmaking platform – Yoh Vote aims to help you find the (political) love of your life
A group of young innovators from the Western Cape has launched a new ‘political dating’ platform that adds an unexpected twist to demystifying party politics for South African voters.
“When a lot of people [talk about] voter apathy among the youth, they think that there’s complete disengagement, but from my personal experience, that’s not true. People want to vote, and they know that it’s important, but information about what the parties stand for is often inaccessible,” says Yoh Vote cocreator Ryan Young.
This is what sparked Young and Yeshav Sewlal to enlist a group of their friends to embark on a journey to create a fun, no-fuss platform to entice young people to participate in the upcoming elections.
What started as a conversation among the group of university mates about the local government elections in November 2021 and indecision about whom to vote for quickly morphed into a project to get the youth more excited about engaging in politics.
The young innovators from Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town launched Yoh Vote, a Tinder-like platform, in mid-August. Yoh Vote acts as a political matchmaking platform, allowing users to “date” political parties to find one best suited to their political needs.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024: Your voting questions answered
After answering a series of thought-provoking questions, users are matched with their ideal party and given information about the organisation, in a similar way to how singles looking for love online craft their dating profiles.
They are then given the option to “take things further” and get redirected to the party’s website, where they can learn more for themselves.
According to Young, the idea for the political party dating platform was birthed from the realisation that there is a hunger to participate in politics and elections among the youth in South Africa. He says the problem arises because many people don’t know where to start.
“[We] wanted to try to make [information about political parties] more accessible and also more fun [so that it appeals] to young people.
“We’ve seen, especially before we launched the platform, people saying, ‘Guys, we must register to vote. We have got to do something. The country is not in a good place.’
“But they didn’t know how to start having those conversations.”
Sewlal adds that although some party information is accessible, the sheer amount of political messaging tends to get overwhelming, especially for people who do not engage regularly with politics.
The aim, says Sewlal, is not to tell users who to vote for, but rather to introduce them to what each political party has to offer and let users decide for themselves.
He says Yoh Vote is meant to push users to think more deeply about why they were matched with the particular party and what that means about their own internal politics.
Voter registration and turnout in SA
A 2020 study on voter turnout by political scientist Collette Schulz-Herzenberg found that 51% of voting-age South Africans chose not to take part in the last election, bringing voter turnout to the lowest point since 1994.
The study found an alarming trend among the youth: more and more young South Africans are losing interest in voting.
The nation has a bulging youth population – people between the ages of 18 and 39 – and Statistics SA estimates that there were 20,608,891 people in this category in 2022.
But, according to the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s voter registration statistics, as of 3 October 2023 only 10,605,342 people aged between 18 and 39 had registered to vote in 2024.
In total, there are 26,154,545 South Africans registered to vote in the highly anticipated national elections.
Getting young people to the polls
“We want to see a lot of people show up [at the polls]. That has always been at the core of what Yoh Vote is,” says Sewal.
“On one hand, there is this political matchmaking to get people to whittle out the noise, but our messaging does lead down to ‘register to vote, be more engaged’ and all of that.”
For now, the platform only allows users to “date” five of South Africa’s leading political parties: the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP and ActionSA. Young and Sewlal are very much aware of the shortcomings of their platform, and they plan to add more parties as the elections draw closer.
They also plan to translate the quiz and the matchmaker profiles into South Africa’s official languages to make Yoh Vote more accessible. DM
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.