Bridging the Atlantic Divide
Against the backdrop of world leaders converging in New York for the United Nations General Assembly and the imminent Climate Ambition Summit under UN Secretary-General António Guterres, an Afrobarometer delegation has concluded a four-day engagement with influential U.S. Africa policy actors in Washington, D.C.
The focus of their engagement was to spotlight and discuss African perspectives on critical global issues, including climate change, democracy, governance, gender, and youth.
In a series of meetings held at the United States Institute of Peace, Afrobarometer leaders unveiled their research network’s latest findings on climate change, democracy, and gender to representatives from the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as non-governmental organizations and advocates for democracy and governance.
Additionally, the Afrobarometer delegation engaged with the World Bank’s Africa Chief Economist, Andrew Dabalen, and his team. They also met with the Africa Program of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), led by Senior Director Dave Peterson.
Shaping the UN Agenda
Afrobarometer Round 9 Surveys
The Afrobarometer’s Round 9 surveys, conducted between 2021 and 2022, provide invaluable insights into the views, aspirations, and experiences of African citizens in the realms of governance, democracy, and climate change. These issues take center stage on the United Nations General Assembly’s 2023 agenda.
E. Gyimah-Boadi, Chair of Afrobarometer’s Board, emphasized,
“Our findings illuminate key issues of paramount interest to policymakers, offering perspectives that resonate with the dreams and real-life experiences of Africans, particularly in the realms of climate change, democracy, and governance. These insights should reverberate strongly within the corridors of power at the United Nations General Assembly, compelling collective action.”
Key Highlights from Afrobarometer’s Round 9 Surveys
Climate Change: Awareness and Impact
Climate Change Awareness
Across 36 African countries surveyed during 2021-2022, approximately half of Africans (52%) reported having heard of climate change, while 46% remained unaware. Awareness levels exhibited significant disparities, ranging from approximately 80% in Seychelles to a mere 22% in Tunisia.
Impact on Lives
Among those cognizant of climate change, an overwhelming 73% believed it was adversely affecting their lives. This perception was most prevalent in Madagascar (91%), Lesotho (88%), Mauritius (86%), Malawi (86%), and Benin (85%).
Call for Action
Dissatisfaction with the efforts of governments, developed countries, businesses, and ordinary citizens in combating climate change was widespread. The majority demanded “a lot more” from these stakeholders.
In all 36 countries, a substantial majority of citizens advocated immediate government action to curb climate change, even if it entailed costs, job losses, or economic repercussions. Remarkably, in 14 countries, 80% or more of those aware of climate change shared this viewpoint.
Gender Equality and Gender-Based Violence
Rights and Opportunities
A resounding 73% of respondents expressed the belief that women should have equal rights as men in owning and inheriting land. However, a slightly smaller majority (58%) endorsed equal rights in employment.
Approximately three-quarters (75%) of citizens affirmed that women should have the same opportunities as men to participate in political office. This sentiment rejected the notion that men were inherently superior political leaders and thus should be given preferential treatment as candidates. This view prevailed across all surveyed countries, except in Sudan, where a slim majority (53%) favored men as better leaders.
While a substantial majority (79%) believed that a woman running for office would gain standing in the community, significant proportions also anticipated criticism or harassment (52%) and family-related issues (40%).
Addressing Gender-Based Violence
Africans identified gender-based violence as the most pressing women’s rights issue that their governments and societies needed to tackle. Opinions were divided on whether domestic violence should be treated as a criminal matter (50%) or a private matter (47%).
Democracy and Governance
Support for Democracy
A clear majority of Africans voiced support for democracy and accountable governance, with 66% expressing a preference for democracy over any other system of government.
Rejection of Non-Democratic Alternatives
Even larger majorities rejected non-democratic alternatives, such as “one-man rule” (80%), “one-party rule” (78%), and military rule (67%).
Endorsement of Democratic Norms
Majorities also endorsed democratic norms, institutions, and practices, including electing political leaders through elections (75%), imposing constitutional limits on presidential terms (74%), promoting multiparty competition (64%), ensuring a free media (65%), and demanding government accountability (61%).
Consistent Demand for Democracy
Across 30 countries consistently surveyed between 2014/2015 and 2021/2022, citizens remained largely consistent in their demand for democracy and accountable governance across numerous indicators.
Challenges to Democracy
Nevertheless, the preference for democracy had become a minority viewpoint in four countries: Mali (39%), South Africa (43%), Angola (47%), and Lesotho (49%). Over the period from 2014 to 2022, support for democracy experienced significant declines in several countries, including Mali (down by 36 percentage points), Burkina Faso (-26 points), South Africa (-21 points), and Guinea (-15 points).
As global leaders convene to address these critical issues, the Afrobarometer’s findings provide essential insights into the perspectives and desires of the African people. These insights are poised to shape discussions on climate change, democracy, governance, and gender equality on the world stage.