A longer research brief on 2024 elections in Africa will be published in February, with analyses on governance performance based on the latest IIAG and in-depth reflections on the democratic landscape on the continent.
The 17 countries undergoing elections in Africa in the course of 2024 have a combined population of around 310 million, of which 58% – or over 180 million people – will be eligible to vote. Mauritius has the highest percentage of the population eligible to vote (80%). In Chad and Mali, less than 50% of the population will be eligible to vote, due to most of the population in the country being under 18.
Selected African countries with elections: share of global eligible to vote (2024)
Proof of identity could exclude around 60 million from the vote
Despite the combined eligibility being so high, it is unlikely all these will be able to vote, as this is will heavily depend on the ability of people to register to vote. In Africa, approximately 500 million people do not have proof of identity, equivalent to one-third of the population. Of the 180 million eligible voters, if one-third do not have identification, this means that a substantial 60 million could be excluded from the electoral process.
Access, security and safety of polling stations remain a challenge
In the latest round of Afrobarometer surveys, respondents from countries undergoing elections in 2024 expressed their inability to locate their polling station. In Mauritius and Ghana over 80% of those surveyed stated they were unable to find their polling station and thus did not vote in their last election. In fact, all countries had more than 50% of respondents who stated they could not find a polling station.
Selected African countries with election: percentage of Afrobarometer respondents unable to find a polling station (2021 - 2023)
The issue of access to polling stations was also seen in the most recent election in Nigeria in 2023. According to Reuters, electoral officers reported that the difficult security situation on the ground left nearly 1/5th of the northern Zamfara state’s polling stations unreachable, a station that alone would have served over 250,000 people.
DRC polling station uncertainty
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, which held elections in December of 2023, observers sounded the alarm on logistical setbacks including the delayed opening of polling stations, security risks and malfunctioning electronic systems. Data showed that 27% of polling stations across the DRC did not open and 45% of voting machines malfunctioned. While churches documented serious incidents which disrupted around 60% of voting.
In the 2023 DRC election, 27% of polling stations did not open and 45% of voting machines malfunctioned.
Africa has the costliest elections globally
Africa has the costliest elections, between 2000 and 2018, Sub-Saharan Africa spent nearly $44.3 billion on elections. Within this same period, the electoral cost per capita in Africa was $4.50, twice the world average and higher than Europe, North America, and Australasia, despite having a much lower GDP per capita.
Africa has an electoral cost per capita twice that of the world’s average.
Malian MPs spend more than Malians' monthly income
In 2019, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy found that in Mali members of parliament spent around 54,000 euros on a round of presidential and legislative elections, while the average monthly salary for Malians is under 100 euros per month. Furthermore, it was shown that 28% of that amount was spent on the actual day of election, equivalent to 150 times the monthly salary of Malians spent on a single day.
Despite having the costliest elections of any other region, African citizens continue to face issues with voting operations, voter registration and safe access to polling stations.
There is also dependency on international partners to facilitate elections: the US pledged $165 million towards the end of 2022 to six election countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. The European Union also has a history of deploying election observers on missions to African countries, most recently in Liberia and Sierra Leone for 2023 elections. However, over-reliance on foreign support signals African countries lack ownership of their own elections.
Overall, the cost of elections in Africa should be reassessed without further hampering the quality of elections as higher costs do not necessarily translate to higher election integrity and in the long-term could be diverting funding from other socioeconomic and developmental sectors.