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Bienvenue à E-lection Bridge

E-lection Bridge celebrates its first little jubilee in 2015: For the fifth time KAS Media Africa brings together African and German political communicators and innovators to exchange ideas and experiences, learn from each other and establish ties for future cooperation. With almost 50 participants from 15 countries it is not only the biggest E-lection Bridge so far, it is also the first that takes place in a francophone country, aiming at bridging English-speaking and French-speaking Africa.

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Moreover, with various elections coming up, 2015 is an exciting year for Africa. The results seem to be less predictable compared to only a few years ago. Therefore, this year’s E-lection Bridge in Dakar covered the upcoming election in Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Uganda extensively, the latest trends in political campaigning were discussed as well as the political situation in Western Africa. The conference was wrapped-up with a team-trip to the historical site Gorée Island which used to be a transfer point for slaves until mid of the 19th century.

With contributions by our regular German guests, Dr. Klaus Schüler (General Manager of CDU) and Oliver Röseler (Head of Marketing and Internal Communication of CDU), the first day was centered on successful political communication and continuous party development. Both of them emphasized that election campaigns are all about the voters.

“Never take votes for granted, voters are picky and often undecided until the last day”, Dr. Klaus Schüler said. Therefore, building up trust and campaigning until the very end are crucial. His key recommendation for the participants was: “Have a charismatic and competent candidate and a party that is fit for the future”. He also advised the participants not to engage in negative campaigning, but to point out that your party offers better solutions than the current government. For long-term success, however, it is equally important to steadily improve your party and adapt to the voters’ and members’ needs and requirements, also outside of direct election periods. “Identify, analyze and work on your weaknesses”, Dr. Klaus Schüler stressed.

In this context, Oliver Röseler presented of the recent party-evolving initiative “Meine CDU 2017”. Despite the success in the elections of 2013, the CDU started a commission to modernize the party, to be “fit for the future” and equally or even more successful in the next elections. How can we get more female members? How can we attract more immigrants to join our party or vote for us? How can we engage more young people? How should be deal with the increasing demographic problem in the CDU? Those are some of the questions seven focus groups work on.

The closing panel of the first day was all about engaging young people in politics. “Take them serious!”, Dr. Klaus Schüler emphasized in the beginning. “Listen to and care about what they say.” Due to the demographic situation in Germany, young people are not the primary target group of political parties. “But without the support of young people you cannot credibly get across that you are fit for the future.” This becomes even more important in Africa where people younger than 35 years make up more than half of the population. The panel around Benson Katjirijova (Secretary General of DTA Youth League, Namibia), Vipuakuje Muharukua (youngest MP, Namibia) and Vincent Musewe (founder of Zimbabwe First!) agreed that is crucial for a party to reach out to the younger crowd, understand their needs and priorities, and get them involved in politics. Vincent Musewe even saw the potential for a new party focusing on the around 5 million well-educated, young Zimbabweans outside of Zimbabwe. “They are allowed to vote and eager to contribute to a political change. I want to provide them a platform”.

The political situation in Western Africa was another key aspect of the conference. With Senegal, the conference took place in one of Africa’s model democracies. Despite the fragmented political landscape with more than 70 parties, independent Senegal has never seen a military coup or a noteworthy authoritarian leader, explained presenter Alpha Faye from the Movement Citoyen. The elections of 2012 lead to a peaceful, democratic handover of power. Moreover, Senegal exhibits a vivid civil society which positively shapes the democratic landscape. From Ivory Coast, Nathalie Yamb of the newly founded party LIDER and Hervé Yomanfou of the governing coalition participated in the conference. Especially by presenting their innovative campaigning strategies, Nathalie Yamb aroused the interest of the other participants. Among others, LIDER uses the app Bitstrips, an application that transforms even complicated concepts in cartoons, to explain its plans for the country to the people.

Burkina Faso runs through a transition period. Last year’s announcement of Blaise Compaoré, president of 27 years, to change the constitution in order to run for another term caused a storm of protest. Compaoré eventually resigned and the military has taken charge until the elections in October. This angers the opposition who wishes a civilian rule, explained presenter Athanase Boudo from the Union pour la Renaissance. It remains uncertain if and under what conditions the elections will take place. David Dronyi from Uganda opened the last day of the conference, with insights in the challenges of being in the opposition to an authoritarian regime.

Christian Echle, director of KAS Media Africa, was highly content with the results of the conference. “Extending the conference by inviting francophone countries worked out surprisingly well. Despite the language barriers and the regional differences the participants engaged in a vivid exchange of experiences and ideas. The Western African perspectives enriched the discussions, we all learnt a lot.” Therefore, E-lection Bridge Africa will be a bilingual event also in the coming years. Echle also emphasized the noteworthy change in the African political landscape. “The elections are less predictable compared to a only a few years ago.” Opposition parties have increasingly good chances to win votes or even enter the government. The surprisingly fair elections in Nigeria this year showed that a non-violent, democratic handover of power is possible, even in a conflict-driven country like Nigeria. Moreover, using social media as a campaigning tool seems to become standard in most African countries.“ Official websites, facebook, twitter and co. are actively used by most parties and candidates.”

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Christoph Plate

Christoph Plate bild

Director Media Programme Southeast Europe +359 2 942-4971 +359 2 94249-79
E-lection Bridge Africa KAS Media Africa


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