News & Media / Webinar Recap - Participation, Rights & Inclusion

Webinar Recap - Participation, Rights & Inclusion

20 June, 2023

On Friday, 2 June 2023, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (MIF) held a webinar on the current state of Participation, Rights & Inclusion (PRI) in Africa based on the Ibrahim index of African Governance (IIAG)'s latest findings. MIF Researcher Hoodo Richter was joined by Manji Wilson, a Now Generation Network (NGN) member and an expert in elections.

Hoodo kicked off the discussion by emphasising that Participation, Rights & Inclusion remains the lowest scoring category within the 2022 IIAG, with a score of 46.7. What is even more concerning is that the rate of decline has doubled since 2017. Alarmingly, over half of all the indicators in Participation, Rights & Inclusion have declined since 2012.

Key PRI findings

Participation is the driving force behind the decline

Out of the four sub-categories in Participation, Rights and Inclusion, three have experienced a decline between 2012 and 2021. The major cause behind this decline is the severe restrictions on freedom of association and assembly, limiting people's ability to participate actively in their societies.

Rights and Media Freedoms continue to be a concern

Rights is the third most declined sub-category since 2012. This decline is largely due to increasing media censorship, limitations on media freedom, and restriction of digital rights. Media Freedom is the most declined indicator within the Rights sub-category, highlighting the challenges faced by journalists and media professionals in Africa.

How is social media having an affect on the election process?

Manji emphasised there is no going back on how the internet has influenced every aspect of our lives as we are now in the digital age. He added social media is one of the most essential tools for democracy at the moment as it provides a safe space for citizens to express themselves. However, there have been increased new social media bills to try and regulate free speech online. While social media has a crucial and positive role to play, depending on how it is used, it is essential for elections and should not be restricted. Manji also warned of the dangers of fake news, misinformation and malinformation, highlighting the importance of fact-checking and working with organisations that help people consume the right information.

Inclusion & Equality, a struggle for political representation

Equal Political Representation is worsening across the continent, making it the indicator that has deteriorated the most since 2012 in the Inclusion & Equality sub-category. Declining equality in political rights and opportunities has driven this negative trend. However, there is a glimmer of hope in the form of Equal Access to Public Services, the only indicator showing a positive trajectory. Nonetheless, it still lags behind as the lowest-scoring indicator in the entire sub-category.

Manji highlighted the importance of youth involvement in politics, stating that young people in Africa have a significant stake. Further adding that through active participation young people can influence policies and ensure their voices are heard; particularly as politics is an avenue for shaping the future.

Educating and supporting youth on rights and politics

Manji argues there is a need to prioritise political education and engage young people through digital platforms. Leveraging social media and other online tools can help disseminate information effectively. Mentorship programs and safe spaces should also be established to empower young people and minority groups.

Women's Equality, a mixed bag

On a positive note, Women's Equality has witnessed significant improvement since 2012, becoming the second most improved sub-category out of 16. All five underlying indicators have shown progress, with Laws on Violence Against Women being a standout performer. However, challenges persist, especially in Socioeconomic Opportunity for Women, which has experienced a slight decline since 2017.

During the webinar, Manji acknowledged the importance of the 2022 IIAG and its reflection on the continent's realities. While the Index demonstrates that women's representation is improving, there are still discussions highlighting the marginalisation of women and young women due to the traditionally patriarchal nature of some African countries. It is essential to examine whether women hold positions of power or if they are merely token figures. Manji highlighted that tokenism is not exclusive to women; it extends to Africa's youth demographic, which constitutes 60% of the population. High costs associated with running for office often deter young people from fully engaging in the political process, leading to token appointments rather than substantive representation.

Viewer Q&A

Impact of COVID-19

  • The impact of COVID-19 on PRI: Since 2019, the average annual rate of decline since 2019 has increased almost six-fold. Three out of four Participation, Rights & Inclusion sub-categories (Participation, Inclusion & Equality and Women’s Equality) have a worse annual average trend since 2019.
  • Impact of COVID-19 on elections: Over 70 elections were postponed, which not only affected citizens' trust but also provided governments with opportunities to extend their mandates. Building resilient institutions and crisis response mechanisms is crucial to navigating future global challenges.
  • Bouncing back from COVID-19: Recovering from the pandemic requires strengthening institutions and preparedness for exceptional circumstances. Rapid-crisis response instruments must be developed to address unusual global occurrences effectively.

Is there an appetite for democracy in Africa?

As revealed by Afrobarometer, a resounding 69% of Africans prefer democracy over other forms of government. The majority are against military and one-party rule government. However, it's important to note that 53% of youth believe that Western democracy may not be ideally suited for Africa, indicating the need for African countries to find their own unique democratic frameworks.

Cause for optimism

Lastly, Hoodo shared some positive news. Gambia stands out as an exceptional case within the continent, with a remarkable improvement of nearly 20 points in Participation, Rights & Inclusion over the past ten years.

Gambia: Participation, Rights & Inclusion Scores (2012-2021)

Additionally, various countries have shown improvement in different sub-categories, demonstrating that progress is possible.

  • Participation: 15 countries have shown improvement, while 39 have deteriorated.
  • Rights: 18 countries have shown improvement, while 35 have deteriorated.
  • Inclusion: 25 countries have shown improvement while 28 have deteriorated.
  • Women Equality: 42 countries have shown improvement, while 12 have deteriorated.

It is evident that Africa faces ongoing challenges in the domains of Participation, Rights & Inclusion. However, there is hope for improvement, especially through the active involvement of youth, the empowerment of women, and the establishment of inclusive democratic frameworks. By addressing these issues, African countries can forge their own path to a brighter future of governance and social development.

Sign up to enews