Guest blog: Political party Finance Regulations in 13 African countries

Share This

CFID are delighted to host a guest blog submitted by the International Department of the Conservative Party. This report is the result of a collaboration between the Conservative Party, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the Research Centre for the Study of Parties and Democracy (REPRESENT) at the Universities of Nottingham and Birmingham. It aims to identify changes in party funding regulation in Africa and recommend the ways to improve. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors, and may not reflect the views of CFID.

The full text of the report can be found here:

Below is a short summary of the report.

The research is the product of a collaboration between the Conservative Party, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the Research Centre for the Study of Parties and Democracy (REPRESENT) at the Universities of Nottingham and Birmingham. That collaboration, which included also the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Lisbon, aimed to identify changes in party funding regulation in Africa and how it can be improved.

It was written by Dr Fernando Casal Bertoa and Dr Edalina Shanches. It was presented both to Stakeholders in the UK parliament in May 2019 and to African Sister parties of the Conservative Party in Johannesburg in June 2019.

This report reviews and analyses party financing regulation in 13 African countries (Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda & Zambia) drawing on an in depth scrutiny of party legislation and personal interviews with representatives of nine different political parties in more than half of those countries (i.e. Angola, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda).

It examines the complex dynamics between money and party politics, looking in particular at how public funds are allocated, how campaigns are financed, the different options (and obstacles) parties face when trying to finance their ordinary activities, the type and scope of financial disclosure and oversight, and the extent to which financial violations are sanctioned. Overall, and despite variation in national contexts and national regulations, the researchers found that in most countries party financing regulations are shine by their absence, and party competition is largely unequal. In this context, it is possible to conclude that while incumbents not only receive often the lion’s share of public and private funding, but also have unsupervised access to state resources; opposition parties face the highest hurdles to be able to perform key functions such as mobilization of voter support and electoral campaigning.

Key findings

Out of 13 countries, only four do not provide any type of direct political funding neither for parties nor for candidates: Botswana, Zambia, Ghana and Sierra Leone;

Most parties are allowed to use public subsidies to fund both their electoral campaigns and ordinary activities. The only exceptions are Namibia, Malawi and Morocco, where funding can only be employed for the latter;

Most public funding regulations tend to favor parliamentary, and in particular ruling parties. Only in some countries (Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and Morocco) public funding reaches smaller (and extra-parliamentary) parties. For this reason, most representatives of the (opposition) parties interviewed consider public funding inadequate and/or insufficient;

In terms of private funding, whereas anonymous donations are generally banned, foreign donations are allowed in most countries, together with donations from trade unions and/or private companies (some partial exceptions include Ghana, Kenya and Morocco). In this context, most opposition parties’ members stress the importance of private funding for their activities, while recognizing at the same time that individual donors often do not support their parties because of fears of backlash.

Party agents/activists often resort to their own personal resources (e.g. cars, gas, staples, computers) to finance campaign initiatives. Moreover, in some cases, party statutes stipulate that a share of an elected representative’s (at national and local level) salary be donated to his/her own party;

With very few exceptions (i.e. Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Morocco), African countries tend to be very lenient on donation limits or caps, especially when compared to other world regions;
With even more exceptions (i.e. Tanzania, Kenya and Morocco), electoral or party spending is not at all limited;

In terms of disclosure and implementation, Africa has the “honour” of having the most opaque campaign donations and the higher levels of vote buying;

Although vote buying is prohibited in all countries, in practice many forms of inducements and clientelism are used to buy voter support;

With few exceptions (i.e. Botswana, Malawi and Zambia), political parties are required to report regularly on their finance. In practice, however, there is lack of transparency and will, together with insufficient means, to oversight parties’ finance; and

Pecuniary fines are the most popular type of sanctions followed by prison, while party de-registration and loss (or suspension) of funding are much less common.

How can parties in Africa address the challenges of funding? There are; for sure, several contextual differences as the nature of electoral politics and the strength of political parties also vary. However, the combined information gathered in this report allows us to advance some recommendations:

Countries should introduce a generous regime of public subsidies, a more proportional formula (e.g. “percentage of votes”) than the usually employed “percentage of seats”. This would allow not only for a less discriminatory distribution of state funds, but also for the extension of state help to non-parliamentary parties with a certain level of support (e.g. 3 percent of the vote). With the benefits this might have for the survival of political parties, the institutionalization of the party system, the reduction of support for anti-establishment parties and, more importantly, the consolidation of democracy;

Earmark a proportion of public subsidies to promote the participation of women (e.g. 20%) and youth (e.g. 10%) in politics as well as the capacity building and civic education of members, followers and/or sympathizers;

Ban of foreign donations and those made by (public or private) companies which, tending to favor parties in power, might exercise an illegitimate influence in the outcome of the decision-making process and the adoption of specific policies;
Introduction of adequate and proportionate limits both for donations and spending, with the aim of reducing (1) the undue influence of wealthy individuals and (2) over-spending temptations, as well as (3) equalizing the playing field and compensating the “advantage of origin” characteristic of hegemonic and/or predominant parties;

Reinforcement of oversight, with the creation of independent control bodies with the effective power and resources (both human and financial) to make political parties (both in government and opposition) accountable;

Use of new technologies to increase the publicity, transparency and topicality of party finance reporting;

Introduction and implementation of credible, proportionate and discouraging sanctions, including criminal liability and total loss of public subsidies, for the gravest types of political finance violations;

Organization of workshops leading to a better training of party delegates in areas of political communication, campaign activities and, especially, fund raising.

More blogs