The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has been promoting the values of the Social Democracy in Africa for over 40 years. We work for social justice, democracy, peace and international solidarity on the continent. It has encouraged and nurtured political exchange between Africa, Germany and Europe for many years, acting as partner to political parties, parliaments, trade unions, media, civil society groups and the interested public.
In joint programs with our partners, we strive to enable and strengthen social and democratic political participation. Together with young people, we develop ideas for shaping a better future. The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung contributes to the dialogue on peace and security, migration and processes of economic transformation. We act towards strengthening the representation of workers' interests by means of political education and international networking.
We can only confront global challenges such as climate change, organised crime or migration by acting jointly with the countries of Africa. Therefore we are committed to global partnership with the countries of Africa.
The Africa Department addresses the following topics in particular:
Here you can find a collection of our projects
The topic of making trade unions viable in the future and structural change of trade unions has been at the heart of the project since 2016. The aim and objective is to identify internal structural deficits and barriers to revitalisation of trade union influence and organisational power working together with trade unions from Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Zimbabwe and Botswana. At the centre of it all is the need for a (re-)orientation of trade union leadership levels and strategies to align more closely with members and the shopfloor level, in particular participation and involvement of members in trade union positions, demands and their implementation. How can capacities of leadership levels and members be strengthened to this end while establishing productive ties between shopfloors, trade unions and national union federations?
Questioning the sustainability of current growth on the continent has generated more interest on the part of African countries in industrial policy strategies. Around 80 per cent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have low-productivity jobs and/or low incomes, either in the sector of subsistence agriculture or in the informal economy. More than one-third of growth is based on the exploitation of natural resources. There is general agreement that structural change into higher productivity sectors of the economy is the next task at hand. "But placing theoretical principles of industrial policy, which have in the meantime gained widespread acceptance, within a practical framework for concrete government action is indeed a daunting and dismaying task, with this perhaps being all the more so the case on the African continent, where the institutional foundations for effective government are often not as strong as one would desire" (Stiglitz et al 2013). Why is there so little industrial development in Africa? This work line examines why African experience with industrialisation has been so disappointing to date, what country or regional factors influence industrial development in general and how interaction between policy and business influence industrial policy aims and objectives and instruments in particular.
An essential and structural characteristic of the newly emerged/established democratic systems in Africa during the 1990s is a citizenship which is oriented towards and dependent on the elite. Citizens decide in regular elections which of the competing elites are allowed to rule for the next term. In addition, citizens have merely become political consumers and any commitment on the part of citizens which goes beyond, is not accepted and not acceptable.
But elections alone are not enough to strengthen democracy. Democracy grows between elections. It is only possible to deepen democracy if it is also based on the self-organised participation of citizens. A “citizens’ society” of this kind has to be institutionally more open to participation than a purely representative democracy.
For such a “citizens’ society" to develop, not only must the institutions of representative democracy be open and empowered to debate societal interests in the scope of on-going debates, but so must civil and political society. Active civic commitment has the potential to be the driving force for a change in political power constellations and “clientelistic” reliance on the elites in politics and society.
The project’s objective is to strengthen active citizen engagement in the public sphere and within existing public and political institutions. The aim is to create access to processes of the formation of political will and political opinion within political and societal spaces. The activities based on these considerations reflect the specific conditions and needs in the participating countries. They include, for example:
FES offices in the following countries are involved in the project: Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Cameroon/Central Africa and Senegal.
With the African Media Barometer (AMB), the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung offers an acknowledged instrument for analysing and assessing the media landscape in Sub-Saharan Africa for many years. The African Media Barometer moreover serves as a lobbying instrument as it points towards reforms needed in the media sector.
How does the African Media Barometer work?
The African Media Barometer (AMB) performs a wide-ranging analysis and assessment of national media landscapes in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast to other media indexes, the AMB is based on a self-assessment of national media landscapes by domestic experts on the basis of indicators derived from African protocols and declarations, in particular from the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa (2002) of the African Commission for Human and Peoples‘ Rights.
Analysis and assessment of national media landscapes is performed by a National Panel made up of 10 to 12 persons, half of them coming from the field of media (media creators, media researchers and owners) and half from other areas of civil society (human rights organisations, trade unions, churches, etc.). The assessment is performed on the basis of 39 indicators broken down into four areas:
(1) Freedom of speech and media
(2) Media diversity and independence of different media
(3) Regulation of broadcasting and public broadcasters
(4) Media in practice and qualitative standards
The results of the AMB are published in the form of a country report. The AMB has already been carried out in over 30 countries. You can find additional information and an updated list of AMB country reports on the FES media project website.
Peace and security in Africa continue to be threatened among other things by conflicts revolving around the scramble for resources, ethnic tensions, transnational violence, organised crime, terrorism, the proliferation of small arms and multiplying non-state actors as parties to conflicts. On top of it all, democratic institutions often remain weak, there is a paucity of security policy strategies, existing strategies are insufficiently put into practice, financial resources are lacking and countervailing interests between various regional powers. Migration on and from the African continent is also an additional factor. Many conflicts have been raging for years, while others flare up again after deceptive phases of quiet. While the causes of insecurity have also changed considerably, the structures and approaches of collective security policy strategies like the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the African Governance Architecture (AGA) have remained the same.
Against this background, the FES has initiated the pan-continental project "New Approaches for Collective Security" in order to make a contribution to the debate over such strategies and security policy structures with a focus on the causes of conflicts. How can existing approaches to collective security such as APSA be supplemented or changed in order to make them more efficient and sustainable?
The FES offices for Peace and Security, Cooperation with the African Union and the country offices in Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon/Central Africa, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal and South Sudan are all participating in the project.
The Ethiopian economy is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and the country plays a geostrategic role in the Horn of Africa region.
Since its independence in 1966, Botswana has been able to make great economic and social strides under stable political conditions.
In the wake of seventeen years of military dictatorship, in 1989 Benin became the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to undergo a peaceful, self-determined transition to a pluralistic, democratic state.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) fosters the training of junior democratic leaders and creates space for the political dialogue between the various camps.
In spite of deficits in democracy and widespread corruption, Ghana has been on a politically stable trajectory since the launch of political reforms in 1991/92.
Cameroon achieved its independence in 1960 and has been under autocratic rule since then. In the person of Paul Biya, Cameroon has had a President leading the country since 1982 who largely suppresses attempts at achieving a democratic transition.
As far back as 1999 it spelled out the focus for its project work as the process of constitutional reform, decentralisation of the political administration (devolution), effective separation of powers and limits on the powers of the President.
Since it became independent from France in 1960, Madagascar has experienced three phases of watershed political change and the founding of four republics and has not achieved any lasting consensus over the design of the government system down to the present day.
In Mali, among the world's ten poorest countries, key challenges include fostering economic development, combating unemployment and securing the food supply, reform of the educational and judicial systems, fighting corruption and mismanagement.
Since the end of the civil war in 1992 and the launch of a pluralist constitution in 1994, Mozambique has been undergoing a process of political and economic transformation.
Since attaining independence in 1990, Namibia has been ruled by the former liberation movement, the South West African People‘s Organisation (SWAPO). The opposition has not been successful thus far in breaking out of this de facto one-party rule. Checks and balances on the three powers are imbalanced, while borderlines between the political party, government and business are blurred.
Nigeria is confronted with massive socioeconomic problems, while the security situation remains tense in large stretches of the country.
The political system of Rwanda and the politics of the country continue to be defined by the horrific genocide in 1994 and its aftermath. A consensus-oriented social order serves as the foundation for the state. Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
In the wake of the first peaceful transition in power in Zambia in 1991 through the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), hopes for political reform were quickly dashed. The government acted in an increasingly authoritarian manner, attempting to make up for a lack of democratic legitimation with stronger curbs and restrictions on civil society and trade unions.
Senegal is currently in a crucial phase of transformation: after President Wade lost the election and office and the peaceful transition in power in 2012, major expectations were focused on President Macky Sall.
As a regional power, South Africa is not only a key actor in southern Africa and on the African continent - together with the emerging economies of Brazil, India, China and Russia (the BRIC states), it is also an important player on the international stage. Throughout the world, South Africa is considered to be a positive example of peaceful transition from an unjust regime to a democracy. Nevertheless...
Zimbabwe’s 14 Million citizens are facing major economic, social and political challenges. The country’s economic crisis has led i.a. to ten thousands of formal jobs lost.
South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Power struggles within the governing party escalated in 2013, leading to an outbreak of violence that quickly took on an ethnic dimension, hitting the civil population particularly hard.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) has been active in Tanzania since 1968. Since then, it has been cooperating with state institutions, civil society organisations, labour unions and the media.
Even though the multi-party system in Uganda was formally reinstalled in 2006 following decades of dictatorship and civil war, the country lacks independent actors and an efficient law enforcement system.