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AU-FLAGPursuant to the African Union Assembly Decision n°: Assembly/AU/Dec.277 (XVI) and EX.CL/Dec.539 (XVI) on the launching of African Women’s Decade (AWD) and the Fund for African Women, the AU is pleased to announce the call for the submission of project proposals under theme n°10 of the African Women Decade namely “mentoring youth (women and men) to be champions of gender equality and women’s empowerment” which content is as follows: “Energizing the African Women’s movement, and mentoring young women and men leaders and professionals, both in Africa and the Diaspora to be champions on Gender Equality and women’s empowerment”.

The implementation of the Decade themes is within the context of the integration of NEPAD into the African Union Structures and in line with Assembly Decision n° Assembly/AU/Dec.333 (XVI) to consolidate gains so far made and to achieve coherence. It also reaffirms African Women’s Decade to be the overall implementation framework for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) and the Fund for African Women’s Decade to be the vehicle for mobilizing resources in line with the Executive Council Decision EX.CL.Dec.539(XVI)(4) and calls for Development Partners support.

By this call, the Commission hereby invites members States and stakeholders to submit their project proposals on the Theme: “mentoring youth (women and men) to be champions of gender equality and women’s empowerment”. This Theme n°10 of the African Women’s Decade is seriously taken into consideration by the African Union Commission and is scheduled to be discussed at the 2017 AU Summit under the theme’ “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the Youth”.

Agenda 2063 has also given an important place to young women and men and according to its Aspiration 6, the Africa Union Commission aspires by 2063 to: “an Africa where development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African People, especially its women and youth…” This clearly shows the will and commitment of the African development actors to lay emphasis on Young women and men. This inclusive and people-centered approach can only be reached by empowering, mentoring and championing the young component of the African population. Agenda 2063 is Africa’s vision and roadmap for the fulfilment of Africa endogenous plan of transformation. Therefore, there is a need for African youth to be mentored accordingly.

The Fund will benefit young women and girls through grassroots initiatives, developed by:

  1. African Union member States;
  2. African Civil Society Organizations working on mentoring youth (women and men) to be champions of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
  3. Youth groups

Proposals will be funded for one year with a ceiling up to thirty thousand dollars ($30,000).

1-Criteria for the selection of project under the “mentoring youth (women and men) to be champions of gender equality and women’s empowerment” Theme:

The projects should be based on the African Union Agenda 2063. The Agenda works for a Shared Strategic Framework for Inclusive change for a better Sustainable Development, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The project or programme should contribute to any of the following:

  1. Create environment where the African and Diaspora young women’s movement will find a platform to interact and bring paramount and valuable changes to the women condition in Africa;
  2. Sensitize and train youth about the drawbacks and consequences of exclusion, on the fact that no woman or man will be left behind or excluded, on the basis of gender;
  3. Demonstrate its commitment as People-centred and training youth about gender equality and Women’s empowerment.
  4. Engage and empower youth to be gender-sensitive in their approach for decision making, while targeting sustainable development;
  5. Boost African women’s incentives to create movements and initiatives aiming at fully empowering young women in all spheres, and promoting their social, political and economic rights, including the rights to own and inherit property, sign contracts, register and manage businesses, and accessing leadership positions;
  6. Organize the mentorship and championship activities for young rural women and men and create movements or cooperatives that will raise awareness on their rights; and help them have access to productive assets, including land, credit, inputs and financial services.

2- In addition to the above mentioned criteria, the selected projects should:

a) Set key mentoring and championing priorities at continental level, to accelerate gender equality and women’s empowerment according to Agenda 2063 vision which expects full gender parity, with women occupying at least 50% of elected public offices at all levels and half of managerial positions in the public and the private sector;

b) Promote the adoption of policies that ensure that the youth of Africa is socially, economically and politically empowered with full implementation of the African Youth Charter and subsequent Decade Plan of Action;

c) Work for the elimination of all forms of systemic inequalities, exploitation, marginalization and discrimination of young people and mainstream youth issues in all development agendas;

d) Lobby for the elimination of Youth unemployment in Africa, while guaranteeing their full access to education, training, skills and technology, to health services, jobs and economic opportunities, recreational and cultural activities as well as financial means and all necessary resources to allow them to realize their full potential;

e) Train, monitor and champion Young African women and men to be the path breakers of the African knowledge society and contribute significantly to innovation and entrepreneurship;

f) Guide Africa’s youth and strengthen their knowledge into creativity, energy and innovation for them to become the driving force behind the continent’s political, social, cultural and economic transformation;

g) Be committed to sensitize and advocate to increase access to Sexual Reproductive Health Services and Rights (SRHR) for young people in Africa;

h) Capitalize on regional youth consultations for a better understanding and ownership of Agenda 2063; i) Promote Young People’s Rights, particularly young women’s rights Towards the Attainment of Agenda 2063’,

j) Create a platform for aggregating youth concerns such as migration, employment and mobility, inclusion, diversity management and popular participation;

k) Train Young people to be active actors in governance.

Mode of application

  1. Submission of a brief and schematic Concept Note in line with the application characteristics provided (attached). The Concept Note should be in summary form to facilitate technical evaluation and provisional approval or rejection by the Steering committee. It should not exceed one page;
  1. Submission of a more detailed, well formulated project proposal, in accordance with the format provided (attached), which meets key operational, technical and procedural requirements required for the final evaluation of the proposal.

The application should include the following information:

  1. A one page synthesis of the Concept Note (attached), as follows:
  • Basic data (project name, management details, duration, geographical location, context and rationale of the project);
  • Description of the project (purpose, goals and objectives, expected outcomes, activities, indicators, beneficiaries, entities and partners);
  • A brief presentation of the implementing agency: 1) governance structures, financial management, monitoring and evaluation, and sustainability plans;
  • Names and contact details (telephone numbers, email, etc.) of signatories.
  1. Detailed project proposal: Refer to attached outline
  1. A page containing:
  • The detailed budget in dollars (US$) and equipment (available and required). Distribution: 50% for equipment, and 50% for training and general expenses. The Fund for African Women does not cover salaries.
  • Bank details of the organization;

All applications should include a letter of recommendation from national Coordination Committees or Ministries responsible for Gender and women’s Affairs. NGO’s and CSO’s, should provide a copy of the Letter of Information sent to your Ministry of women Affairs. All hard copies of applications should be sent through the respective Embassies of Member States in Ethiopia, with electronic copies submitted directly to the Commission, addressed to the Director- Women, Gender and Development Directorate, AU commission Fund for African Women, by April 15, 2017.

Kindly note that the commission will only accept proposals that adhere to the indicated theme.

This announcement will be posted on the AUC website

The detailed format in which concept notes should be submitted is available on the website in English, French, Portuguese and Arabic.

Member States and grassroots organizations with the requisite capacity, experience in networking with women’s groups, community cooperatives, the informal sector, and addressing gender inequality are encouraged to apply.

For further information or clarifications, please contact Mrs. Mahawa Kaba Wheeler, Director- Women, Gender and Development Directorate (WGDD), Tel: +251 11 518 21 12 – email:; Mr. Adoumtar Noubatour, Senior Programme Officer, Tel: +251 11 518 21 11- email: ; Mrs Fiorella De Pede, email : Tel.: +251115182115.

CLICK HERE to get all necessary documents: African Union Website


The AU Youth Club Network: Register onto AUC Youth Division Database


The African Union Commission, through its Youth Division is intending to establish across the continent, the AU Youth Clubs. The AU Youth Club Network is meant to be a Platform that will initially be used to engage you and elicit your guidance as we rationalize the concept. It will then evolve into the AU Youth Club Network through which African Youth across the continent and in the Diaspora will connect, interact, and take shared ownership of their destiny towards achieving the realization of Agenda 2063, with the full support of the African Union.

If you have ever engaged (or not) with the AU, take a moment to register the AU Youth Division’s database. Your information will be used to build a database of potential AU Clubs and AU Club Members, to which all future correspondence on the AU Youth Club Network will be sent.



Call for youth participants to the intergenerational dialogue during the 26th AU Summit

Si vous préférez la version française, cliquez ici
The 26th AU Heads of States and Governments’ Summit will be held from the 21st to the 31st of January 2016, at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The theme of the Summit is: “2016 : African Year of Human Rights with particular focus on the Rights of Women”. Along the sidelines of the Summit, the African Union Commission is organizing an intergenerational dialogue between African Youth and leaders, particularly African Heads of States and Governments and Heads of continental and global Institutions.
The intergenerational dialogue will be held on the 30th January 2016 under t
he theme “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend in Africa towards the realization of Sustainable Development Goals and AU Agenda 2063”.
It shall be preceded by a youth consultative forum on the 29th January 2016 to concretize ideas to be discussed with the leaders. The dialogue aims at creating the space for conversations necessary to develop transformative strategies and perspectives on maximizing the development potentials of youth particularly young women. The event is expected to galvanize
these youth as they engage with the leaders. It will build upon deliberations
from the previous Intergenerational dialogue with the Pan African Parliament. Key recommendations were centered on implementation of existing policies and strategies that hinge on education, governance, peace and security, health and economic empowerment. The current intergenerational dialogue seeks to upscale discussions to the highest levels of governance in Africa. Consequently, African Union Commission
in collaboration with the Pan African Youth Union invites the brightest young minds from across Africa and the Diaspora to engage in the discussions and significantly contribute to matters of national, regional and continental policies that guarantee youth economic empowerment and
development. This is further informed by the fact that over the years, motivated young professionals from around Africa have proven that they can generate innovative solutions to help solve the continent’s complex challenges.
Towards this end young people from across Africa and the Diaspora who are well versed with the current issues of continental concern are requested to send their Expressions of Interest (submission) to be part of the 2016 intergenerational dialogue with leaders during the Summit. Interested youth are encouraged to find sponsors to pay for their transportation, accommodation and subsistence for the two days of the event. If attendance to the dialogue is not possible please send your submissions and recommendations to the email below and/or engage with us through twitter using the #AUIGD16 and our other social media platforms.
Please include in your submissions:
-Curriculum vitae/ Resume
-Copy of Your Passport
-Your country of origin and current place of residence
– The name of your organization or relevant affiliations
– Name of sponsoring organization (If self, please indicate)
– The description of the work or project you are undertaking relevant to the theme and the issues of concern (education, governance, peace and security, health and economic empowerment …). Include documentary
Send your submissions directly to: with the subject line: AU IGD 2016 by 12th January, 2016.
Notification to the successful applicants will be sent by 15th January 2016.


Note: Deadline for the receipt of proposal is Friday 21st August 2015.


As part of the activities of the 2015 (4th) High Level Dialogue (HLD) on Democracy, Elections and Governance which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda from 26-27 November 2015, the African Union Commission (AUC) will facilitate the inclusion of young people’s specificities and voices into the conversation through National Conversations. These Conversations will be held around the theme “Youth participation and leadership in political parties in Africa: Special focus on young women” for the Continental Youth Consultations due to take place in Kigali, Rwanda from 23-25 November, 2015. The theme of the Youth Consultation is linked to that of the 2015 Dialogue under the theme “Women’s Equal Participation and Leadership in Political Parties in Africa”.

The overall goal of the 2015 Youth Consultations is to provide a collaborative, open and inclusive space for young people involved in different spheres of political life across their respective regions to discuss the current state of youth political participation particularly young women and the prospects that they envision for strengthening the ways in which young people and young women particularly can lead and serve in political parties and governments.

In an effort to deliver on the above goal national conversations will specifically aim at:

  • Sharing evidence-based knowledge and analysis on youth and particularly young women’s participation in political parties in Africa;
  • Exchanging comparable lessons, experience and practices on the roles of young people in fostering accountable, responsive and effective governance throughout the continent;
  • Assessing the effectiveness of the existing participatory structures of youth and particularly young women in political parties; and
  • Identifying the specific roles of state and non-state actors (especially civil society) as well as National development partners towards strengthening youth engagement in democratic governance.
Successful organisations will be designated as National Conversation Leads and will be required to provide technical, logistical and financial support towards the convening of the national conversation. In addition, these organisations will be required to work with other organisations in their respective Member States. The national conversations should be undertaken between August 24 and September 25,2015. Interested organisation should address their two page proposal to Ibraheem Sanusi at Deadline for the receipt of proposal is Friday 21st  August 2015.

For more information, download the guidance note for the call 

Source: DGTrends Website

Does holding on to power for decades make any difference to the well-being of citizens?

Over the past ten years or more, heads of states across many of Africa’s new democracies have attempted to modify their country’s constitutions to prolong their mandates. Today, in many of these countries – examples include Burundi, Rwanda, Togo, Benin and both Congos – discussions are heating up over whether term limits should be imposed. In past articles, I have made several arguments in favor of fixed terms. Here, however, I take a step back to see if there is a relationship between term limits and citizens’ well-being. Does maintaining the same person in power for decades make any difference in the livelihoods of the people?

Before delving into this issue, there is one necessary caveat to clarify. The links between democracy (or any regime type, for that matter) and economic development have been the subject of ample prior research. However these studies have rarely born definitive conclusions. Analysts such as Michael Ross(1) and Mancur Olson(2) believe that democracy leads to better management of public resources and an overall improvement in people’s lives (particularly in the education and health sectors). Meanwhile, there are others, such as Jenny Minier(3), who think that providing services to constituents is not a trait specific to democracies and that non-democratic regimes can indeed provide the same. The purposes of this paper are not to take sides of this debate, but rather to un-package some of the issue itself. This paper, therefore, does not attempt to provide definitive answers, but merely to stimulate further discussion.

Is there any evidence to show that populations can indeed benefit from having the same person in power for a protracted period of time? That is the most obvious question. It is a key question for new democracies in the region to be asking, especially given the number of heads of states fighting to hold on to power and the seemingly high price paid by the citizens for this type of “uncontained” control. The ‘cost’ on our countries is, among other things, reflected in our weak institutions and civil society, restraints on citizens’ basic rights and the inexistence of opposition. But is this solely, or even directly, a result of presidents who don’t relinquish power? One possible entry point to this conversation is to look at the UNDP’s human development rankings of countries where terms limits are imposed/respected as compared to those where leaders have been/stayed in power for decades.

Data on Development in West Africa

The Human Development Index (HDI)(4) is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education and income and will be used as the factual (data) basis by which to compare two national groupings that have very different leadership histories (see Graphic 1 below). The first group is made up of countries where the same leaders have held power for decades. This includes Togo, Burkina Faso and Gambia. In the former country, for example, the presiding Gnassingbe family has been in power for 48 years (Eyadema Gnassingbe stayed in power from 1967 to 2005 and his son, Faure Gnassingbe, has been there since 2005). In Burkina Faso, President Blaise Compaore spent 27 years (1987-2014) before he was forced to leave office at the end 2014 due to violent street protests; while in The Gambia, President Yaya Jammeh is now ending his second decade in power (which he’s held since July 1994). In the second group, there is Benin, Ghana and Senegal – all countries where democratic rotation and the alternation of power have become the norm (there have been at least two changes in power in each country since the mid-1990s). While in Ghana, politicians seem to have respected terms limitation, Benin and Senegal have experienced attempts by former presidents to hang on to power beyond the two terms limits set by their constitutions. These attempts have failed however, thanks to civil society activists and some political actors.

Graphique 1 Mathias Blog post

Looking at Graph 1, which explores the Human Development Index (HDI) of the six countries, there are no perceivable patterns or major differences between the two country groupings. For instance (and except for in Ghana), the trends in the evolution of the HDIs in Senegal and Benin (which have experienced at least two changes in power over the last two decades) are not very different from those of The Gambia, Togo and Burkina Faso where heads of state have stayed (or tried to stay) longer than initially planned (or for more than 10 years). However, the HDIs seem slightly higher in the first group of countries as compared to those in the second group.
But of course there are other factors to consider aside from the HDI. Aspects such as the amount of natural resources, geography (whether the country is landlocked or not) and the size of the economy (GDP) are all important considerations. For example, take the first group – Ghana, Senegal and Benin – all of whom have higher GDP per capita ($4029, $2,243 and $1,793 respectively). The second group, by contrast, are nations with smaller GDP per capita ($1,642 for The Gambia, $1,638 for Burkina Faso and $1,390 for Togo).

But what if we looked at states within the top GDP ranked countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and compared their leadership histories? Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana can be grouped into one category where there are high GDP’s and power alternation. Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Cameroon may be grouped into another with high similarly high GDPs, yet without power alternation. The result? Graph 2 represents the variation (or lack thereof) of the HDI between 1990 and 2013 between these two groups.

Graphique 2 Mathias Blog Post

According to Graph 2, it once again indicates that staying in power longer (more than 10 years), even with higher GDP per capita, does not necessarily translate into better human development compared to a country with changes in power. For instance, South Africa and Ghana with GDPs of $12,507 and $4,029 respectively have better HDI’s compared to Equatorial Guinea and Angola where their GDPs are $33,767 and $7,978.

But the story doesn’t end here. There are several other factors that come into play and which contribute to the social and economic development of a country. A change in head of state is just one consideration. More research still needs to be done to provide concrete evidence supporting the fact that, except for in very few instances, several decades incumbency does not make any difference in citizens’ lives.

It would be beneficial for all new democracies to find additional and measurable proof that in countries where leaders hold on to power for several decades there was not any notable difference in the lives of citizens, as compared to countries where alternation of power was the norm. If this was indeed the case, there would be no point in fighting to keep the same person in power for several decades, especially since there are many advantages in alternation of power. So what are these benefits?

Alternation of power is good in itself
In a previous article, I argued in favor of presidential term limitations, largely because it improves the virtue of those in positions of control and operates as a moderating mechanism against abuses. Power tends to increase over time. As former US President John Adams is often quoted, “human passions are insatiable” in their quest for control and, as British historian and politician Lord Acton used to say “power corrupts”. Indeed the longer an individual or aligned group stays in power, the more dominance they accumulate and the more they (and power) becomes prone to abuse. Furthermore, experience across 90% of the world’s established democracies has shown that presidential rule is subject to a form of limitation, while here in Sub-Saharan Africa unlimited presidential terms have not proven conclusive.

A recent article posted on the Brookings’ Institution website on the African Leadership Transitions Tracker provides further arguments in favor of power alternation. Among its benefits it cites an “improved context for political rights and civil liberties”and the fact that “citizens’ support for democracy is affected by democratic turnover”. American political advisor Gideon Maltz(5) goes even further by stating in his 2007 article The Case for Presidential Term Limits that “… the mere alternation of ruling elites tends to disembowel electoral authoritarianism”(6) . Most importantly, Maltz goes on to stress an even more valuable truth: “… turnover in government destroys the patronage networks and clientelistic relationships … and the new ruling party must begin the gradual process of taking over the state’s assets and pressing them into service.”

As I’ve tried to show through this short overview of the HDI’s relative to power tenure across country groupings,there are no notable differences between Ghana, Senegal and Benin and Burkina Faso, Gambia and Togo as a result of power alternation. However, what is important – in fact, crucial – is that in this first group of countries, they are engaged in building functioning and effective institutions. And it is these institutions that will (among other roles) serve as the foundations to provide peace and stability, which are invaluable to social and economic development. However, and as previously stated, more evidence is still needed in support of the arguments put forward here, and it is my hope we can further build on this discussion to build a more fruitful and tangible case for imposing presidential term limits.

Author: Mathias Hounkpe is OSIWA’s Political Governance Program Manager
Follow Mathias on Twitter @Coffi_12


[1] Michael Ross, “Is Democracy Good for the Poor?”

[2] Olson, M. (1993). Dictatorship, Democracy and Development. American Political Science Review 87 (3), 567-576

[3] Something is needed here (reference)

[4] Defined by the United Nations Development Programme as a “a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and have a decent standard of living”

[5] Cited by the African leadership transitions tracker’s piece

[6] Gideon Maltz, “The Case for Presidential Term Limits”, Journal of Democracy, 18:1, January 2007.

SOURCE: Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)

Let’s Debate on Africa’s expectations for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development

Have you ever thought of the best financial mechanism for Africa development? Should we rely on domestic resource mobilization rather than aid or vise-versa? What kind of resources do we need and how to manage them in order to take Africa to the next level, end extreme poverty, ensure that every African Youth has access to basic and essential services, to education, to employment, etc…? Is the argument of funding increase commitment from decisions-makers enough to make a difference? As African negotiator, how will you articulate your negotiation points at the next Financing for Development Summit?… here’s the current state of the debate -> Read. As we know, Africa is home to bunch of fragile states with huge illiteracy rate, high number of unemployed youth, bad economic governance, weak and unclear investment plan for priority sectors for development and, at the same time, the beloved continent is full of invaluable and unexploited resources. According to policy-makers and specialists, there is a strong linkage between, in one hand, emerging conflicts, extreme poverty and, in the other hand, the way priority sectors and financing channels are identified in African countries. In fact, political economists would suggest the need for paradigmatic shift in African countries financial models of programs and development, precisely at the era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). That’s where the Third Summit on Financing for Development comes in as entry point. You may be aware, the third financing for Development Summit (or FfD3) is scheduled for this year from 13 to 16 July 2015 in Addis Ababa and “will feature high-level negotiations between developed and developing countries for a framework to finance the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. This new development financing architecture is anticipated to emphasize a broad range of issues, including domestic resource mobilization and tax reform, new commitments on financial development assistance (ODA) to poor countries, debt and macroeconomic policies, climate change financing, the role of private sector finance in development, and the need for global and regional cooperation to monitor the implementation of the agreed financing framework.” Read the Draft revised version of the proposed Addis Ababa Accord (click here) So, for the OXFAM, “in spite of the global momentum towards the FfD 3 Summit, there is insufficient public awareness and mobilization of strategic constituencies at the Pan-African level to engage with the AU on the FfD 3 Summit, and in general, Africa’s priorities in the context of the emerging global consensus on development financing”; thus a joint event with the African Union Commission to discuss Financing for (Africa) Development, the way forwards. image-0001The event which is planned to be held on Tuesday 19th May 2015,will feature eminent researchers, speakers, panelists from Pan African institutions including intergovernmental organizations and non-states actors. The audience and panelists will have an unprecedented chance to criticize and evaluate the “African common position” paper that has been developed out of a series of consultations held by both UNECA and the African Union Commission, which is yet to be adopted by African leaders. The idea that sustains this event is basically to “provide a platform for an open, interactive debate on Africa’s engagement with the FfD 3 Summit between the AU, UNECA, other Pan-African institutions and strategic constituencies in civil society, research and academia, women and youth groups and affected communities” and to “create opportunities for non-state actors to inform and contribute to the common African position on FfD 3”. “The session will provide an optimal policy dialogue platform for all interested stakeholders to add their voices in the on-going debate with a view to respond in a transformative manner to Africa’s fundamental development challenges in the spirit of mobilizing and channeling domestic and external resources to achieve inclusive and sustainable development during the next decade and beyond” Topics to be discussed include:

  1. Assessment of the achievements of FfD 3 and overview of International Financing for Development;
  2. Africa’s expectations on the third Financing for Development Summit;
  3. Civil Society Views on the Third Financing for Development Summit.

An information fair at the side of the meeting will also be organized to expose the participants to the different activities around the quest of Financing Africa’s Development Agenda. The outcomes of the session will be published in the ‘’Bulletin of the Friday of the Commission’’ and disseminated to a wide audience for publicity including AU Member States, Regional Economic Communities, Universities and Development Partners among others. Definitely, the usefulness of this exercise lies in the fact that, given the current state of Africa and planning for the future, the realization of an “Africa that is prosperous, in peace with herself and plays a prominent role in the global arena,” will depend on the suitable manner through which we will take advantage of this forth coming negotiation round (FfD)! Be part of the discussion!!! Mark the date: Tuesday 19th, May 2015, Time: 2pm to 6pm,

Please ask questions during the Debate online using #FFDdebate  and follow  @assodesire, @Oxfam_AU, @palabanapalms, @Octavio_diogo

Note: To attend the conference, you can come to the AUC headquarters in Addis on the date of the conference and register at the gate. More info, contact: Mrs. Selam Abraha (E-mail: ), Tel: +251 116 611601, Ms. Ambela Barbara (E-mail: ) Tel: +251 115 182668. Get more documention on the FfD here.

Democracy Beyond Elections

In this article, LSE alumnus Olivier Bucyana explores the idea of elections as only the starting point of democracy. This post is part of our African Elections series.

The wave of democratisation that swept through Africa and other regions in the early 1990s paved the way for multi-party elections. People were given the choice to elect politicians whom they believed would take their country forward. As a result, today we see vibrant electoral campaigns manifested by political party supporters in rallies excitedly waving banners, and packing into stadiums chanting and dancing their party’s name in fervor. But we also see the ugly: the contestations, the violence and the looting.

With a number of important presidential elections coming up this year – Nigeria, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso – one cannot help but wonder what impact they will have on the West African political landscape. Most importantly, how will the upcoming elections affect the living standards of those who line up for hours to cast their ballot in hopes of a better future? Will the newly elected improve the lot of those barely surviving on one meal a day and those who walk for hours just to fetch a pail of water? How will these elections improve the lives of those who struggle to pay for their children’s health care and education?


One of the challenges in all democracies today is keeping the population informed and constructively engaged in the various political decision-making processes that affect their daily lives. Free, fair and transparent elections are vital for the consolidation of democracy. Democracy, however, is more than just elections; it is also about performance and the effective delivery of public goods and services once elected.

Elections: A Pillar of Democracy
Democracy, as defined by Abraham Lincoln, is “the government of the people, by the people [and] for the people”. Free, fair and transparent elections are organised on a regular basis to renew elected leaders and most importantly to provide the people with an opportunity to elect those they believe will improve their standards of living. A renewal of the political elite is important for a number of reasons. One is the competitive nature of free and fair elections, which forces political candidates to remain in-tune with the needs and demands of their citizens. The virtue of elections is also their ability to limit abuses by providing citizens the opportunity to change their representatives.

As a key pillar of democracy, elections also serve as a forum to discuss issues of importance to the nation. Candidates and political parties use this platform to present their political agendas, which they believe will lead their country towards economic and social development. Incumbents and other candidates who have previously been exposed to the public eye are also required to defend their track record during elections, which exerts pressure on elected leaders to stay demonstrably responsive to the needs of their citizens.

The assumption today is that if elections are transparent, free and fair, then elected leaders will respond to the people’s needs by improving their living standards. Is that always the case?

Empty Promises
Nigeria, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have been holding elections regularly in the past decades and all four countries are endowed with natural resources. From large reserves of oil to iron ore and gold, these countries have the assets to improve the lives of their citizens. Unfortunately, what we see today is a reality that fails to live up to its potential.

In her most recent Op-Ed, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes what many Nigerians identify with today: the scarcity of electricity. This is not particular to Nigeria, as frequent power and water cuts are a reality throughout West Africa. Just last year, hundreds protested in the streets of Conakry against a series of frequent blackouts, often attributed by officials to “technical difficulties”. Yet, this issue remains unresolved, and it comes with consequences. The inadequate supply of electricity prevents small businesses from thriving and subsequently has repercussions on households’ incomes and their ability to provide for themselves. In fact, the most recent poverty survey conducted by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics indicates that the country’s poverty rate has increased from 54.7% in 2004 to 60.9% in 2010 despite being the continent’s best performing economy. This begs the question as to who, if not the general populace, is reaping the benefits of the country’s economic growth.

When it comes to education, the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) latest Education Index (2014) shows that Nigeria’s index in this sector has not improved between 2010 and 2013. Nigeria is ranked 152nd (out of 187) in the overall Human Development Index, which assesses achievements in key indicators of human development such as education, life expectancy and other income indices. Just last year, it was reported that approximately US$20 Billion in oil revenues had not been paid by the National Petroleum Corporation to the Nigerian Government. This colossal amount could have been reinvested into schools, hospitals, infrastructure and other areas to improve the lives of Nigerians. Moreover, with the country expected to lose half of its oil revenues this year due to the recent global slump in oil prices, how will its elected leader cope with the costly fight against Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, and raise the standards of living of Nigerians?

In spite of being one of the continent’s fastest growing economies (close to 9%) and having improved its business climate, Cote d’Ivoire also figures in the bottom 35 of the UNDP ranking. Guinea and Burkina Faso find themselves in the bottom 10 of the same ranking.

“Fine words do not produce food”
What the above-mentioned challenges indicate is that the electorate in the four upcoming presidential elections will have one common expectation: a significant improvement in their living standards. This means food on the table, a roof over their heads, medicine in their cabinets, and a job to bring value to their lives. The economic growth seen in recent years has to be more inclusive and has to trickle down to the poorest in the form of consistent and effective delivery of public services. Electoral candidates will have to go beyond the empty rhetoric and emotional speeches given during campaigns. Their promises have to be clearly laid out and backed up with a clear road map for timely implementation. Elected leaders need to be more responsive to the needs of those they represent while in office.

These set of challenges also tell us that elections are not sufficient for elected leaders to be responsive to the needs of the population they were elected to serve.

Way Forward
A series of measures could be put in place to make sure elected leaders keep their promises and work towards improving the lives of citizens.

What if, at the stage that many development countries are today, a widely accepted twenty-year (or so) national development program reached by consensus with civil society organizations and political parties was the way forward? Such a widely accepted program or long term vision could serve as a road map for a fixed number of years for each and every elected Head of State. It would avoid having successive elected leaders and Governments putting forth opposing programs and views on how to improve the lives of citizens. Such a program would make sure an elected leader builds on the work of his or her predecessor with respect to the widely accepted national program. This program would encourage a bottom-up approach to governance and would bring stability, a key element in the development trajectory of any given country struggling to improve the standards of living of its citizens. Such a shift in the approach developing countries have to social and economic development could pave the way forward.

Civil society organisations would also have their role to play in monitoring the effective implementation of such a program. Although not accessible to everyone, the use of information technology (IT) could help in monitoring government promises. Initiatives like set up by a group of Senegalese engineers helps keep track of the fulfillment of promises made by current President Macky Sall during the 2012 Presidential campaign. In Kenya,, a term meaning Patriot in Swahili, is a platform that seeks to inform citizens on the work of the Members of Parliament in hopes that it will enhance public participation in decision making processes. In Nigeria, BudgIT simplifies the country’s national budget with the use of infographics to make it more accessible and comprehensible to those who have no background in public financial management and accounting. Follow The Money, in Nigeria as well, helps citizens track funds allocated to various projects nationwide. These initiatives inform ordinary people about the way funds are allocated to various sectors that have a direct impact on their lives (i.e. health, education and infrastructure…). They also make complex political information more accessible with the aim of increasing citizen participation in public policy debates.

What if elected leaders were required to be qualified for the job? Many constitutions list qualifications – citizenship, age and number of years lived in the country – for the Presidency. Most constitutions do not require the individual attaining the highest position of the State to have acquired a certain level of education. The reason for not having such a requirement is because the position of Head of State is one of representation and such a requirement would discriminate against many, as university education is still not accessible to all. However, given the importance of the responsibilities vested in most Presidents, it is only logical that the individual at the head of the state is able to do the job effectively. Qualification is not always about education, it can also be a proven record in the public or private sector. Qualification can also be a proven record in leading large unions as former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and others have done. Requiring all presidential candidates to have a demonstrable record in the public and/or private sphere will certainly increase the quality of leaders elected.

What if elected leaders signed contracts and were given a probation period equal to half their constitutional mandate to achieve a part of the national development program? After all, they are state employees. Performance contracts, with key deliverables based on the national development program mentioned above, could possibly sway elected leaders away from the time-consuming politics they do to get re-elected. These contracts could also prevent them from making promises they know they cannot keep and that are not in line with the national program. However, it must be said that, while presiding over a country, difficult decisions have to be made to deal with unexpected and unfortunate events such as epidemics (i.e. the recent Ebola outbreak), conflicts (i.e. the recent rise in global terrorism) and other unfortunate events. Such situations often require emergency funds that may have been budgeted for other projects, which can limit their full implementation. To account for that, emergency funds could be set aside and performance contracts could require the elected leader achieve only a given percentage of the promises they made with regards to the implementation of the national plan. Measuring results against set objectives increases the likelihood that goals will be met.

Free and fair elections are important for the consolidation of democracy, however, they are not sufficient for elected leaders to be responsive to their citizens. An active citizenry and a public sector with a sense of purpose, direction and one that is accountable for its performance could be the solution to many of our problems.

Author: Olivier Bucyana is a LSE alumnus. He blogs at Africa In Perspective. Follow Olivier on Twitter