Elections in Africa

Hopes and fears. That’s what you’ll hear from young Africans when you ask them about their country’s elections. Whether it’s hopes about a new future that could be created or fears about landing a job, there are many issues taking up space in the minds of new and would-be voters.

Over the course of 2024, 20 African countries will be holding elections. These elections range from presidential to national to local – all bringing with them various opportunities to address, or not address, the biggest issues facing African countries right now.

From Algeria to Namibia, the countries holding elections this year each have their own challenges to overcome. In southern African countries, like South Africa, the past is looking to override the future, with a controversial former president making moves to appear on the ballot. Meanwhile, in a number of countries in the Sahel, upcoming elections are part of designated steps to shift from military rule back to civilian rule. And in Togo and Chad, where family dynasties have long held power, some voters and opposition leaders see the electoral process as a sham.

Through it all, OkayAfrica aims to lay out how young people are most affected, giving voice to their biggest concerns and sharing their brightest dreams.

General, October

After the death of his father Idriss Déby in 2021, Mahamat Déby took power with the help of the military, promising to hand over power to a civilian government in 18 months. Three years later, he’s the favorite to win the presidential elections.

There are ten candidates on the ballot, however, there’s only one notable opposition to Déby in Prime Minister Succès Masra. Previously in exile for playing a key role in the October 2022 protests, in which dozens were killed, Masra returned after negotiating with the transitional government.

Although Masra has gained popularity amongst young people who want to make sure a Déby isn’t in office after May 6, his current campaign is being negatively affected by his post as the prime minister.

June, Presidential

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani came into office in 2019, in the first peaceful handover of power in the country’s six decades of independence. According to provisional results, Ghazouani is set to return to office for a second and final 5-year term, after winning 56% of the vote.

Ghazouani won against six other candidates, including former prime minister Hamid Ould Sidi Mokhtar. The main opposition was Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, a liberal, anti-slavery activist who focused his campaign on eliminating corruption and creating opportunities for young people in an economic climate with high unemployment rates.

Ghazouani, whose campaign centered on security, has promised to keep Mauritanians safe from armed insurgency in Mali, one of its bordering countries. Going into the June 29 polls, the incumbent was viewed by observers as a safe choice, and now he has another five years in office.

July, Presidential & Legislative

After the death of his father Idriss Déby in 2021, Mahamat Déby took power with the help of the military, promising to hand over power to a civilian government in 18 months. Three years later, he’s the favorite to win the presidential elections.

There are ten candidates on the ballot, however, there’s only one notable opposition to Déby in Prime Minister Succès Masra. Previously in exile for playing a key role in the October 2022 protests, in which dozens were killed, Masra returned after negotiating with the transitional government.

Although Masra has gained popularity amongst young people who want to make sure a Déby isn’t in office after May 6, his current campaign is being negatively affected by his post as the prime minister.

General, April

In April, Bassirou Diomaye Faye was sworn in as Senegal’s youngest president ever. Barely a month before, he was in jail alongside close ally, Ousmane Sonko, who soon after would become prime minister. Faye’s ascent into office is an encapsulation of the frenetic weeks that led up to the elections, which involved public demonstrations and general calls for a change in the country’s political ruling vanguard.

Former President Macky Sall, in collusion with parliament, attempted to shift the elections to November, from the scheduled February date. Protests ensued, with state forces employing brutal tactics against unarmed protesters. Senegal’s constitutional council ruled that Sall’s attempted postponement was unconstitutional, and it led to elections being held a month later than planned.

Under a new amnesty bill passed by parliament, Faye and Sonko were released from jail, with the former able to contest and the latter ineligible to run due to a conviction back in 2022. Faye beat out incumbent Prime Minister Amadou Ba, and 18 other candidates to become president.

General, April

Amidst celebrations of three decades of democracy, South Africans are gearing up for the closest national election race in post-apartheid South Africa.

The African National Congress (ANC) has consistently won the majority in parliament, ensuring the country’s president emerges from the political party. This time around, it’s facing a stiffer challenge to win more than 50% of parliament’s seats, largely due to citizens’ dissatisfaction. Load shedding is worse than before, public taps are running dry, unemployment rates are still up, economic inequality is still rampant, and economic growth has stalled.

Opposition has also increased. In addition to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), former President Jacob Zuma is now with the new uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) political party, and his popularity, despite several political scandals, could help MK win seats in the KwaZulu Natal province – one of the key battlegrounds with millions of voters.

General, April

For almost six decades, Togo has been ruled by the same family, despite running a democratic system on paper.

Usually, presidential elections are held by popular vote, but a new constitutional reform has made it that parliament elects the president, starting from next year. This means this year’s parliamentary elections serve an even more important purpose than before. While opposition parties and citizens have made their displeasure at the reform known, it passed a second reading, which means incumbent Faure Gnassingbé could be in office for a total of 28 years.

The last parliamentary elections were boycotted by opposition parties, citing irregularities in the process and marginalization even before the polls, which led to the ruling party Union for the Republic (UNIR), dominating parliament. A similar situation is expected following the April 29 elections, with low opposition participation on the ballots.