Africa Department

Promoting Democracy

Roughly 25 years following the beginning of watershed changes in the world political arena triggered by the wave of democratic reforms in the late 1980s, there are at present only very few countries in Africa that do not have multi-party political systems and stage regular elections. Nevertheless, the euphoria at the outset of the "second democratisation", hailed as an irreversible transition towards democracy, has long since given way to a more sober assessment. Old or new autocratic practices of rule can be discerned behind a facade of formal democratic institutions in many African countries. Terms such as "defective democracy” or "autocratic democracy" have been coined to describe these new systems and the incomplete nature of democratic development in Africa.

In many countries of Africa, there is a gaping discrepancy between formal democratic requirements existing on paper (fundamental rights, elections, multi-party systems, separation of powers) and realities belying often dysfunctional political systems. A definition of democracy that is solely based on elections and democratic institutions is therefore inadequate. The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's efforts to foster and promote democracy takes this into account.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's work on democracy

  • strengthens political participation and socio-political commitment on the part of citizens, e.g. through training programmes for young leaders and workers that are carried out in numerous African countries,
  • seeks to shape political processes along just gender equity and encourage the participation of women in politics and society,
  • influences government institutions to work in a manner that is more transparent and open to participation,
  • carries on an open dialogue with political parties on internal party democracy, fundamental values and the behaviour of political parties and society,
  • advocates a socially balanced, democratic development model in the competition taking place in Africa between authoritarian and participative development models.

fesmedia Africa – the FES media project in Sub-Saharan Africa

Freedom of speech and information are vested human rights and at the heart of any democratic society. These are prerequisites for political and cultural participation and the foundations for media to be able to perform its role as a public instrument of criticism and to exercise checks and controls on government power.

In many countries of Africa, however, numerous laws stand in opposition to freedom of speech and information. Far-reaching national security laws are for example a favourite ploy with which to side-step publication and disclosure obligations. Moreover, freedom of speech and information are constrained by political and/or economic pressure on media institutions. Journalists are frequently subjected to (or threatened with) physical violence. Deficient quality in reporting and failure to uphold professional journalistic standards are used as a pretext by governments to place shackles on the media.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's media project for Sub-Sahara Africa, whose head offices are located in Windhoek, Namibia, therefore acts to promote freedom of information and the media and exercises its influence so that the media can exercise its function of democratic checks and controls in an effective manner.

fesmedia Africa

  • supports campaigns throughout Africa for improved access to information and fosters the advocacy for and implementation of access to information (ATI) laws at the national level,
  • has developed its own instrument in the guise of the African Media Barometer with which to analyse and evaluate the degree of freedom of media and information in individual African countries,
  • strengthens the diversity of the media sector, in particular through the promotion of community broadcasting,
  • supports the establishment of adequate Internet governance structures,
  • analyses the impact of new media on socio-political discourse,
  • encourages civil society actors to develop and use their communication skills to initiate processes of social transformation and
  • contributes to the debate over media policy through its website and publications.

For more information on our media projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, visit


Chirimambowa, Tamuka Charles

Fireproofing the digital public sphere in Sub-Saharan Africa

Some notes for citizen journalists, independent media, and civil society organisations
Windhoek, 2024

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MISA transparency assessment

The citizens' analysis of government openness in Southern Africa
Windhoek, 2023

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MISA transparency assessment 2023

The citizens' analysis of government openness in Southern Africa
Windhoek, 2023

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African media barometer

A home-grown analysis of the media landscape in Africa : Uganda 2022
Windhoek, 2023

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Aw Ndiaye, Eugénie Rokhaya; Sidibe, Mame Lika

Security for all

Promoting democratic governance and inclusive security through CSO involvement in Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon and the wider ECOWAS region
Dakar-Fann, 2023

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Africa Department

Contact in Germany (Media)

Manuela Mattheß

Hiroshimastr. 17
10785 Berlin

+49 30-269 35-74 08


Africa Department

Contact in Germany (Democracy)

Andreas Quasten

Hiroshimastr. 17
10785 Berlin

+49 30-269 35-74 43


Contact in Namibia

Freya Grünhagen

P.O Box 23652