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Africa Macro 24 February 2023

2023 African election map

Simon Freemantle

Key contests in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and the DRC

This report is intended for the exclusive use of the recipient. The report may not be distributed to any other person without Standard Bank Research’s express written consent.

  • In this report we focus on the outcomes of the major elections in Africa in 2022 and look to this year’s most prominent electoral processes on the continent. Further, we assess the state of democratisation in Africa in light of the current stasis, or even decline, in global democratic progress. 
  • The state of democracy in Africa. According to the World Bank’s 2021 assessment of the quality of democracy in Africa, the region’s democracy score averaged an estimated      -0.60, a slight rise from our last report in 2019 when Africa’s aggregate score was -0.62. Further, Afrobarometer survey data reflects robust support across Africa for democracy. The relatively peaceful transfer of power in key elections in 2022 bolsters this underlying trend. However, the EIU’s 2022 democracy report notes that half of the continent’s nations are still being governed by authoritarian political systems. And the recent democratic slide in Tunisia, which had shown remarkable democratic promise in the years following the Arab Spring, provides caution to the outlook, too.
  • Though 2022 was not a busy election year, there were some important outcomes, including in Kenya and Angola, both of which are influential economies within their respective regions. Elections in Kenya saw the transfer of power from former president Kenyatta to his deputy, William Ruto. Angola’s election was eagerly anticipated too given the heightened contestation between the ruling MPLA and major opposition party, UNITA. A surprise in the election of Prime Minister Sam Matekane, a political newcomer to the Lesotho political landscape, reverberated positively throughout southern Africa.
  • There are 14 presidential or parliamentary elections scheduled to be held across the continent in 2023. Most of the activity will be contained in East and West Africa. In the west, Nigeria will be the country to watch this weekend as it holds its most contested election (given that there are three frontrunners) since its transition to a sustained democracy in 1999. Liberia and Sierra Leone are also scheduled to hold elections this year. Then, in the Horn of Africa, recent postponements to elections, to 2024, in South Sudan could upset the local populace and the international community that have been following developments regarding the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS). Sudan is scheduled to hold elections in July.
  • The elections in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are expected to be held in December, with incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi likely to face firm opposition from Moïse Katumbi. Further south, another vigorously contested election will be in Zimbabwe, where President Emmerson Mnangagwa will stand for a second term against youthful opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
  • The 2023 election cycle comes as various critical geopolitical issues are converging. Conflict in Europe (following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), the ongoing (and, in Africa, lagging) post-pandemic economic recovery, and the disproportionate impact of climate change on the developing global south (including Africa) are exerting profound strain. Further, in this report we explore how protracted economic weakness in certain pivotal economies – such as South Africa – is eroding public confidence in the democratic process and presenting challenges for ruling governments and national institutional systems.

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