Nineteen African countries are scheduled to hold either a presidential, parliamentary or local council elections in 2019. Political finance regulations play a major role on the continent to ensure fair political participation processes and prevent corruption stemming from the misuse of money in politics. Designing effective political finance regimes also support the African Union’s 2018 theme of “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”.
Despite the increased attention on money in politics, the recently updated International IDEA Political Finance Database reveals that several shortcomings still exist in African countries’ political finance regulations. For example, while it is important to include both political parties and candidates within the scope of political finance regulations, regulations concerning candidates are largely missing in many African countries. Similarly, political finance disclosure by political parties in Africa is on an average of 43 per cent, lower than Europe (93 per cent), Asia (60 per cent) and the Americas (56 per cent).
In order to address these challenges, it is encouraging that some African countries have recently initiated political finance reform debates. For example, there is so far no specific provision in the law that regulates private funding and requires its disclosure in South Africa. However, the situation is changing. The Political Party Funding Bill, which seeks to improve accountability and transparency in political finance, is currently being finalised and expected to be enforced in time for the South Africa’s 2019 national and provincial elections.
At the same time, it is important to emphasize that enacting legislation alone does not guarantee the effective management of money in politics. While anti-corruption has been high on the political agenda and political finance laws are relatively comprehensive in Nigeria, research has found that implementation of such laws is not always enforced, opening doors for corruption risks. The upcoming 2019 presidential election campaign features anti-corruption as one of the priority issues and Nigeria could consider making further efforts to ensure effective implementation of its political finance laws.
Political finance reform and anti-corruption debates in South Africa and Nigeria could promote greater accountability and transparency in their respective countries, and have potential spill over effects on the entire African continent to follow suit. International IDEA’s recent reports on digital reporting and disclosure of political finance and gender-targeted public funding also provide a number of good practices and technical information to make money play a positive role in politics.