Crossing The E-lection Bridge Africa - Towards New Horizons In The Region
CDU General Manager Dr. Klaus Schüler praises KAS Media Africa initiative as "the way to go"
Also available in Deutsch
The driver slowly maneuvers the bus full of E-lection Bridge Africa participants over the dirt road to the backstage area. On an open-air ground in Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam, the opposition party CHADEMA has called a mass rally. Around 20,000 enthusiastic supporters followed the call. They fill the barren area with life. “People’s – Power!” the crowd chants, CHADEMA’s acoustic trademark.
“Impressive! This is political communication experienced first-hand,” praises CDU General Manager Dr. Klaus Schüler amidst the mass of blue-white-red party flags.
The practical aspect of the workshop is a top priority for the African and German campaigners. “We want to promote a regional exchange beyond national borders,” says Markus Brauckmann, Director of KAS Media Africa and founder of the E-lection Bridge Africa. Last year the target group of political communicators met for the first time at the opening conference in Accra, Ghana. Further bilateral and regional events followed at regular intervals, under the banner of the successfully established umbrella brand, The Bridge.
This year’s summit meeting 2012 took place at the end of May in Dar es Salaam, in close cooperation with KAS Tanzania and the local Country Representative, Stefan Reith. Party representatives from Senegal, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the host country Tanzania were jointly selected with the KAS country offices. They were joined by three top-class speakers: Dr. Klaus Schüler (CDU General-Secretary), Oliver Röseler (CDU Director for Marketing and Communication) and Heather Thuysma (University of Pretoria, South Africa). The programme was tailored to the needs of the participants: on the first day a sight-seeing tour to the local partner party CHADEMA, on the second day the presentations and discussions with the international speakers and, finally, on the third day the carefully prepared presentations by the African participants. Motto: from the region, for the region.
The opening day was particularly meaningful. The group visited the CHADEMA headquarters in Dar. The opposition is currently on the upswing, has won several by-elections against the governing party, CCM, and enjoys lasting popularity among the people – inspiring and motivating for the participants who mostly fight at home against almighty rulers. General-Secretary Dr. Willibrod Slaa retraced the rise of the party for the guests. CHADEMA, initially represented in parliament with just one delegate, clearly prepared its ascent methodically step-by-step. A particular focus was on the party organisation. This became apparent in the afternoon at the above-mentioned mass rally. CHADEMA has by now reached a level of opinion participation and mobilisation that left the participants from other African states in awe. With the sea of blue-white-red flags, banners and t-shirts in mind, one participant said appreciatively, “No government can get this spirit back in the bottle.”
The presentations by the international experts followed on the second day in the Serena Hotel auditorium. Heather Thuysma addressed the question: How to reach the voters? For this case, the academic professional, who worked in 2008 for Hillary Clinton in the USA, selected the medium radio, which is still leading in Africa despite all the digital developments. Thuysma’s specialty is the focus on target groups. With the help of various radio commercials from the USA and Africa, she practically demonstrated how certain social groups can be reached. The advantage of this traditional medium is obvious to Ms. Thuysma: “Wide range at affordable production costs – and people who you would otherwise never reach.”
Dr. Klaus Schüler is considered one of the leading campaign managers in the world. During the last parliamentary election in 2009 journalists called him the ‘architect’ of the successful campaign which led to the re-election of Chancellor Angela Merkel. In his impressive presentation the focus was on structure, organisation and procedures within a campaign or party headquarters. Dr. Schüler described in detail the various phases of preparation and how the wheels have to work together to achieve success. “It’s not about winning an Oscar,” says the expert, “but rather the elections.”
“Campaigning Between Elections”: With this closing presentation on the second day, Oliver Röseler fulfilled a repeated wish of the political actors in the region. They had remarked several times to KAS Media Africa that they have difficulty maintaining their communication and campaign abilities between the elections. The CDU divisional director had tailored his presentation to meet these needs and illustrated with concrete examples from party affairs – from membership ad campaigns to the CDU’s anniversary. The feedback from the participants was consistently positive. “We need to do that with the members as well,” commented Zahra Diop from Senegal.
In preparation of the E-lection Bridge Africa, the African campaigners had suggested setting aside one day for presentations from the region. “It is important that we listen to each other,” remarked Libolly Haufiku from Namibia. He got things started and described the Namibian opposition’s courageous fight against election fraud in the 2009 national elections. Haufiku and his colleagues are still waiting for a final verdict. The following presentations highlighted the current campaign of the NPP in Ghana (by Curtis Perry Odudzeto), the successful introduction of web TV in Tanzania (by John Mrema), the founding of the new party, LIDER, in the Ivory Coast (by Nathalie Yamb), digital campaigns in Kenya (by Michelle Fondo, Michael Orwa, Mark Nyongesa) and the multi-party landscape in South Africa (by Julius Moloi). “Extremely interesting. We learned a lot,” pronounced Lutero Simango from Mozambique.
“It was a pleasure having the E-lection Bridge as our guest in Tanzania. For our partner CHADEMA the two-way street of experience with the regional colleagues was a real benefit,” said Stefan Reith, Country Representative of KAS Tanzania. Dr. Schüler observed: “The E-lection Bridge is a success which must definitely be continued.” Markus Brauckmann, Director of KAS Media Africa, also came to a positive conclusion. The E-lection Bridge Africa has become one of the central pillars of the foundation’s regional media programme: “We want to continue further along this path.”
Republic of South Africa, June 5, 2012