COVID and Election Administration in Africa: Five Day Training for Election Official

The United States International Center for Electoral Support in partnership with the Mexico National Electoral Institute (INE) hosted a specialized international virtual course for African electoral bodies on “Elections during periods of Health Emergencies.” The training took place from December 7-11, 2020 and brought together senior election officials from 11 African countries namely Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Somalia, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, Nigeria as well as the Kingdom of Jordan. Questions addressed during the course challenged participants to brainstorm on best practices applicable to Africa to deal with the following:

  • How to guarantee the political-electoral rights of citizens during a pandemic or health emergency at each stage of the electoral process?
  • How could voter education and information and electoral campaigns be carried out in times of health emergencies?
  • How to combat fake news to avoid the disenfranchisement of voters as well as avoid the undermining of election integrity?
  • How can electoral management bodies rely on electronic platforms and social media to keep in touch with voters during a health emergency?
  • What measures and user friendly guidelines should be instituted to allow in person voting during a health emergency?
  • What specific policies must election management bodies put in place to ensure the electoral participation of vulnerable groups during a pandemic?
  • What are the best practices in drafting election budgets to accommodate unplanned conditions and emergencies such as a pandemic?
  • What measure can guarantee the right and provide confidence about the integrity of elections conducted during a pandemic?

The training provided an opportunity for participants to analyze experiences, exchange knowledge, compare tools and procedures used by electoral authorities to guarantee the holding of elections, learn about the challenges and solutions that were implemented in those cases and that could be useful for other countries. COVID-19 has caused at least 73 nations and territories to postpone or cancel their elections in 2020. In some cases slowing election operations and creating constitutional tensions, elements that may undermine the consolidation of democracy, not only as a form of government, but also as a way of life of a society founded on the State of law and respect for human rights.

Experts from regional and international institutions presented their perspectives and main results of their research and collaboration with various countries in the region. Presentations were made by senior officials from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA); as well as the Electoral Assistance and Promotion Center (CAPEL), and the United Nations Program in the Arab Region (UNDP). During the training, participants from Jordan, Malawi, Tunisia, Cameroon and Uganda shared their country specific experiences.

The United States International Center for Electoral Support remains committed to support election management bodies in their pursuit to promote and strengthen election integrity.