Unlocking the Future: Digital Democracy and African Elections in 2024

Preparing for the 2024 Elections: Exploring the Impact of Digitalization on Democracy in Over 17 African Nations. The Digital Afrikan, in collaboration with The Mail & Guardian, Tayarisha Centre for Digital Excellence, and The Institute of Election Management Services in Africa (IEMSA), unveils a continent-wide initiative featuring op-eds and podcasts. Join us as we delve into the potential benefits of digitalization for African democracies.

Academics, experts, and researchers from across the continent will present opinions derived from their research on how elections are impacted by digital technologies.

These op-eds will be augmented by continuous coverage of African elections with a keen focus on:

  • Misinformation and disinformation
  • Gender biases in electoral processes
  • The digital divide and how it excludes large parts of the electorate from participating in elections
  • Digital governance undermines democracy, especially during elections
  • The power of digital citizenship in strengthening democracy during election years

The Digital Afrikan’s Youth Desk called Frame of Reference (F.O.R) has already kicked off a social media series on TikTok to engage young voters across the continent on how they can affect and influence democratic outcomes in their countries through elections.

Expert opinions

The election series starts with five op-eds from academics and experts on digitalization and governance which will run for the next 6 weeks. Each piece will be augmented by a podcast where the authors discuss their pieces in more detail to anecdotally unpack their assertions. They are:

African Democracy Superbowl

Business Insider Africa estimates that 20 African countries will go to the polls in 2024 to choose national and regional leaders in what some observers have termed a ‘Democracy Super Bowl.’ Supporters of good governance are keen to see how the recent technological boom experienced in 2021 has impacted democracy on the continent. Using a South African case study, Maxwell Maseko, a postdoc fellow at the Wits School of Governance, argues for adopting digital technologies to transform election management in Africa.

Do politicians weaken democracy through social media?

Blessmore Nhikiti, a researcher based at Wilhelms-Westfalische University of Münster, Germany, uses his paper titled ‘Social media, Party Narratives and Supporters’ Opinions – Zimbabwe´s post-2018 elections’ to interrogate how losing candidates use social media to Influence their supporters not to accept election results. 

Is Africa ready for electronic voting? 

Professor Colin Thakur, NRF-rated researcher, and Research Chair in Digitalisation at Durban University of Technology, looks at the recent electoral change to include independent candidates and whether a switch to electronic voting is required to counteract the effects of an unusually long ballot paper.

Are African politicians playing their part in curbing disinformation and misinformation online?

Tom Mboya, a governance consultant based in Kenya considers whether digital platforms represent a resource or a threat to democracy in Africa. In an era of disinformation and misinformation, what can politicians do to reduce the spread of fake news online?

How a lack of ICT skills is hampering effective election management in Africa

Japheth Ondiek and Gedion Onyango present insights from their paper titled ‘Techno-policy implications of adopting electoral technology systems in Kenya.’ Counting technologies and electoral voting are becoming more reliable alternatives to pure traditional voting methods which are prone to manipulation. Yet the lack of ICT skills in electoral structures presents a serious barrier to implementing digital solutions.

The Podcast

Hosted by Sinethemba Mtshali, editor of Frame of Reference, and Maxwell Maseko, The Elections Series podcast will supplement the op-eds and stories published in the Mail & Guardian and can be streamed on YouTube and Spotify. Authors and experts will discuss the implications of their pieces on democracy in Africa adding colour and texture to the published articles.

The Digital Afrikan is a journalism organization with a mission to drive digital transformation in Africa. Visit us or contact us at info@digitalafrikan.com

Published by Mail & Guardian on 5 April 2024

Tags: AfricaAfrican Democracy SuperbowlAfrican Elections 2024

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