This paper focuses on the interaction between authoritarian regimes and their youth populations in Africa, bringing together studies from across the continent that have looked at dynamics of contemporary authoritarianism as well as youth politics. In this paper, we set out a framework for studying and comparing the interaction between youth populations and authoritarian regimes in Africa, where leaders have deployed various strategies to stay in power, causing intergenerational tension between themselves and large segments of the youth population. We argue that regime strategies towards the youth, and urban youth in particular, must be understood as part of the ‘menu’ of authoritarian strategies for incumbents to hold on to power. Regimes attempt to repress and control, but also co-opt and mobilize the youth in party-state networks of power and patronage, thus seeking to rejuvenate the ruling party. We also contend that youth agency in authoritarian regimes needs to be understood through exploring their perceptions and everyday experiences of regime strategies for dominance. Acknowledging youth diversity, the article addresses the different forms of youth political agency in response to authoritarian politics, from support to party-state structures to contestation.