detail - Media Programme Sub-Sahara Africa
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Now in its third edition, the francophone Academy – launched with a workshop in Burkina Faso in 2018 – brought together dynamic politicians from eight parties in five African countries. The workshop precedes nine weeks of rigorous online training, supervised by e-learning expert and academic Heather Thuynsma, based at the University of Pretoria.
Looking back, E-lection Bridge Academy graduate Hermas Mahouklo Affedjou, who was presented with a certificate of completion on the eve of the workshop, reflected that he was shy to speak in public. “But today I do it comfortably and, better, I dominate the audience,” said the Beninese, adding that it has resulted in him being given more responsibilities by his party leadership.
Inspired by what she learnt at the workshop, that spans practical and theoretical exercises, Michelle Nioule, a youth leader in the Parti démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire, is readying for nine weeks of e-learning. “This training has taught us a lot about communication strategies in politics,” said the Ivorian of the event – also attended by peers from seven other parties in Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and Togo.
E-lection Bridge Academy trainer Gérard Guègdèbé, a communications strategist, asserted that at the crux of each party and each electoral campaign is the citizen, but warned of the “big gap between electoral promises and delivery”. Expanding on this, co-trainer François Gilles de Pelichy, a junior researcher at the University of Pretoria, offered insights into understanding and addressing voter concerns in the political message.
For his part, Gilles de Pelichy said he was “enriched” by his experience with young politicians. “I also learned about the different challenges they face on a daily basis (in different countries).”
Reminding participants why they were in politics and how to earn credibility, Guègdèbé said: “First of all, focus on the needs of your constituency. Make their problems your problems, and they'll see you as their choice. You won’t necessarily have to ask them.” This point resonated with Senegalese Nestor Bianquinch, steeped in politics since his teenage years. “The training spoke to me and was quite relevant to what I do. I am ready to implement and share with colleagues the skills and lessons from here in my party work as we prepare for the upcoming local elections.”
While expressing confidence with the current crop and asserting this new breed of politicians was set to take centre stage in the next five to 10 years, Guègdèbé added: “The idea is to have as many politicians as possible to adopt new ways and tools of communicating political messages. The message should always be about voters’ needs and be backed by action. If politicians can do this, their messages will be credible and voters will have confidence that the candidate asking for their vote would deliver.”