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African election officials discuss challenges and build capacity

15 October 2018

Electoral officers in African Commonwealth countries have been learning how to improve the credibility, inclusiveness and transparency of the polling process.

Representatives of the Election Management Bodies (EMBs) of 17 out of 19 Commonwealth African states participated in a five-day workshop in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, organised by the Commonwealth in partnership with the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC).

The interactive and discussion-based format was an opportunity for participants from across different EMBs to problem-solve and learn from each other in a collaborative environment.

Issues ranged from EMB’s financial sustainability, strategic planning of elections, enhancing women’s participation in all areas of the electoral cycle, the use of technology in elections and the effect of new media.

The Commonwealth Election Professionals (CEP) training programme explores some of the key challenges that Commonwealth EMBs face in delivering credible, inclusive and transparent elections.

In opening the training event on Monday 8 October, the INEC Chair Professor Mahmood Yakubu remarked, “I am pleased to welcome all of you to this workshop for election professionals from the Commonwealth Africa Region. I invite you to be open to new ideas and be critical during the discussions and interactions that follow. It is through such approach that you can come up with possible solutions to the challenges that we contend with in the herculean task of managing elections in our region. We need to further consolidate on the process so that elections are not merely periodic but also peaceful and credible.”

The programme is designed to encourage participants to share their experiences in translating the overarching principles of election management into an everyday reality. Participants are asked to consider what compromises are made when such values appear to collide, and how each EMB tailors these principles to the unique needs and circumstances of their electorates.

Nigerian participant Chinenye Chijioke-Osuji said, “I am very happy to be here because this is the first opportunity I've had to be trained by the Commonwealth. The training has been interactive, interesting and educative.”

Douglas Matsiko, from Uganda, said, “The training is very interesting because we are sharing experiences across Africa we are learning new things from other participants and I have the opportunity to be trained by the Commonwealth team.”