Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Who finances elections and political campaigns in Africa?

Article from AFRIC Editorial
Many electoral campaigns in Africa are subject to suspicion of foreign funding, which in principle is prohibited. Despite this restriction, the organization of polls continues to benefit from foreign help.

It is a fact that many elections in Africa are financed by external donors. The European Union and the United Nations are among the main financial contributors to electoral processes on the continent. During his visit to Chad in December, French President Emmanuel Macron also pledged his country’s financial support for the organization of the parliamentary and municipal elections, which has been postponed several times for lack of funding. The country needs 70 billion CFA francs for their organization and President Idriss Deby Itno had explicitly asked for financial help from external partners. The last elections in Mali have also benefited from substantial subsidies from foreign donors. It was the same in Burkina Faso. Madagascar, for its part, benefited from a grant of $ 12 million to cover the entire electoral cycle, the regional and provincial elections in 2017, legislative and presidential elections last year. But many voices including the civil society are beginning to denounce this source of funding.

During a conference on “Critical Analysis of Electoral Processes in Africa”, Abderhamane Niang, a Malian expert and electoral consultant criticized this practice. For him, elections are an “act of sovereignty and their funding must come from the countries concerned”. Even if the election budget sometimes exceeds the capacity of the states, we must think in terms of national sovereignty and give ourselves a deadline after which the elections will be entirely financed by the African countries. Prior to last year’s DRC elections, Congolese authorities said they had rejected two external election financing proposals. “The DRC has the means to finance the December 23 elections alone, since we are seeing an improvement in the state’s finances. We do not want to relive the experiences of the past where those who provide funding tend to want to guide the outcome of the elections” said Lambert Mende, the former spokesman of the Congolese government. Still, many African countries continue to receive external funding for the organization of elections. It is necessary and urgent to find a proper and internal source of funding so as not to always depend on external donations.


In August, a few months before the presidential elections in Madagascar, a study on the financing of the electoral campaign has been in the news a number of times. Indeed, the study funded by the European Union said the former president of Madagascar Hery Rajaonarimampianina had spent more than 40 million dollars for the campaign that led to his victory in 2013. The study concluded that this is one of the most expensive electoral campaigns in the world so far. The cost of this campaign has even dethroned that of Kenya described as exorbitant in 2017, which quite difficult to understand this in one of the poorest countries on the planet.

Beyond the Malagasy case, it is the financing of electoral campaigns in Africa in general that is questioned. There is a real opacity in the financing of these campaigns. Although there is a ban on foreign funding and a capping of campaign cost in some countries, many observers believe that “opaque arrangements can be made between the candidates and the donors for the mandate, future counterparts: tax benefits, public markets, exploitation of natural resources “.

Several scenarios are generally observed during election campaigns for elections in Africa. The ruling parties do not hesitate to use state funds for campaigns. It is not uncommon; for example, to see vehicles with administrative registrations wandering the streets in impressive processions. Public resources are mobilized without embarrassment. In Cameroon, for example, the campaign budget of the party in power the “Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais” is not known even if the press mentions a figure in billions. Most of the directors of publicly funded companies are members of this presidential party and private companies are reluctant to fund opposition parties for fear of tax reprisals according to the opponents of President Biya. Opposition parties therefore campaign according to the means they have and according to their networks. The more rich and well known the candidate is, the more resources they have.

The example of the last Malagasy presidential election is a perfect illustration with an almost all American campaign. Large international groups also fund campaigns in Africa to benefit from lucrative contracts later on. The French group Bolloré is quoted regularly in these examples. What revived the questions about the sources of funding? In an article in the weekly Jeune Afrique, the former journalist and specialist in Tunisia Samy Ghorbal mentioned hypocrisy for the case of this country. Indeed, “the expenditure is theoretically capped at 5 times the maximum amount of the public subsidy. Foreign financing, in any form, is strictly illegal. But the reality is different for the journalist to the extent that the opacity reigns supreme. The ban on foreign financing is far from being respected. “The suspicions of foreign financing (from Qatar, Turkey, the Emirates or Algeria, according to the affinities of one or the other) are still insistent. And the answers of politicians are “still evasive”, he notes. It is therefore difficult to know the other sources of funding for electoral campaigns apart from those officially known.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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