Introduction:

“Moving Beyond Rhetoric: The Role of Regional Economic Communities and Normative Frameworks in Advancing Democratic Governance and Electoral Integrity in Africa.” This symposium aimed to bring together various stakeholders including civil society actors, political representatives, African Union (AU) organs, and regional bodies to discuss and reflect on the status and relevance of AU and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) norms in advancing democratic governance and electoral integrity.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the symposium was witnessing a diverse array of voices and perspectives coming together in one room. Different political parties from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, and Namibia, along with civil society organizations, AU organs, and election management bodies, convened to share practices, knowledge, and experiences, all with the common goal of contributing to the promotion of electoral integrity and democratic governance in Africa. This inclusive environment fostered rich discussions and collaborative efforts, highlighting the power of collective action in addressing shared challenges.

One of the pivotal moments of the symposium was the interactive session on implementing effective advocacy strategies to advance the AU Charter and SADC Principles on democratic governance and electoral integrity, in which I had the privilege to present. I shared insights from our Data-Driven Advocacy Manual, stressing the critical importance of rooted advocacy initiatives in data to guide policy actors in addressing challenges around democracy, human rights, and good governance. It was an opportunity to emphasize the tangible impact that well-informed advocacy strategies can have in shaping policy and promoting democratic values.

Furthermore, it was inspiring to witness the Guest of Honor Professor Dr. Khabele Matlosa, Former Director of Political Affairs at the AUC and author of the ACDEG, making use of Afrobarometer data in his keynote address on the Africa Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (ACDEG) as a tool for promoting democratic governance and electoral integrity in Africa. This demonstration of utilizing data-driven approaches at such a high level underscores the importance of evidence-based advocacy in driving meaningful change.

Key Highlights:

Context and Background: The symposium provided a comprehensive overview of the normative instruments guiding democratic governance in Africa, including the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (ACDEG) and the role of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) such as SADC in promoting these principles. It highlighted the challenges of adherence to these norms and the importance of political actors and civil society in ensuring their implementation.

The Role of Civil Society and Political Actors: Speakers emphasized the crucial role of civil society and political actors in promoting democratic governance. They discussed the need for increased awareness and knowledge of existing normative frameworks and the importance of advocacy and engagement with AGA members and regional bodies like SADC.

Use of Civic Technology: The symposium explored the emerging role of civic technology in enhancing citizen engagement and strengthening democratic processes. It emphasized the potential of digital tools in facilitating dialogue between citizens and government, as well as the need for political parties to leverage these technologies for effective civic engagement.

Project Initiatives: Participants shared insights from ongoing projects aimed at promoting democracy and good governance in the region. Projects such as the Charter Project Africa and the Political Parties for Resilient and Inclusive Democracies in Southern Africa (PoPRID- Southern Africa) were highlighted for their contributions to advancing electoral integrity and democratic governance.

Conclusion:

The Southern Africa Regional Symposium provided a valuable platform for stakeholders to exchange ideas, share experiences, and strategize on advancing democratic governance and electoral integrity in the region. It underscored the importance of collaboration between civil society, political actors, and regional bodies in promoting democracy and upholding the rights of citizens. Moving forward, the insights gained from this symposium will inform ongoing efforts to strengthen democracy and governance in Southern Africa.

 

Compiled by:

Nyasha Mpani, Project Leader Data for Governance Alliance Project