About DRI in Sub-Saharan Africa

About us

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) has been active in Sub-Saharan Africa since 2009, accompanying electoral processes and strengthening civil society across the continent.

What we do

Our work has ranged from supporting domestic election observers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and the wider West Africa, strengthening civil society participation in Southern and East Africa, and conducting electoral expert assessments across the continent.

How we do

  • We provide expertise to ensure credible and transparent elections in countries with fragile democracies and weak institutions.
  • We support domestic election observers across Sub-Saharan Africa to strengthen their technical capacities to observe the electoral process.
  • We manage and advise large-scale citizen-led election observation projects reporting on presidential and governorship elections.
  • We aim to improve youth's enfranchisement and inclusion in democratic participation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • We accompany African civil society in analysing and evaluating the situation of closing space for civic engagement.
  • We advise the European Union in electoral matters in sub-Saharan Africa, deploying missions to assess the pre-conditions for EU Election Observation Missions and providing evaluations on specialised election topics.

Our work in Sub-Saharan Africa

Providing expertise to the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2015-2020

Between 2015 and 2020, we partnered with the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) to implement two large-scale projects to support domestic election observation around the 2018/19 polls in the DRC. The Projet de Renforcement de l'Observation Citoyenne des Elections Congo - PROCEC (Phases I and II) aimed to strengthen Congolese citizen observers' technical capacities to observe the entire electoral process across the different stages before, during and after the elections. Throughout the five years, together with EISA, we helped build and accompanied SYMOCEL, a platform of 11 Congolese CSOs observing electoral and democratic processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

From 2018 to 2019, DRI worked with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to provide advice and technical support to the DFID-funded programme Supporting Electoral Processes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The aim was to conduct an independent and technical evaluation, audit and discussion of the new voting machines around the 30 December 2018 elections in the country.

Supporting domestic election observers across Sub-Saharan Africa

In 2018/19, we managed a team of seven experts to provide long-term electoral advice to consortium lead Stakeholder Democracy Nigeria (SDN) in implementing the large-scale DFID-funded Niger Delta Watch 2019, a citizen-led elections observation project reporting on the 2019 Nigerian presidential and governorship elections.

Since September 2022, we have co-led the EU's large-scale Women and Youth in Democracy Initiative (WYDE) programme, implemented by the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) and its CSO member organisations, for four years (2022-26). It aims to improve youth's enfranchisement, empowerment, and inclusion on all levels of democratic participation at the national, regional and global scales, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. We seek innovative tools and approaches for domestic election observation and follow-up to observer recommendations by youth across Sub-Saharan Africa. To make it genuinely valuable for youth observer groups, we ensure that these tools and approaches are co-created and co-trained with the most experienced youth groups among them.

Our current focus is Anglophone West Africa, where we are piloting the project before expanding it across other regions of Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone Africa by 2026.

Accompanying African civil society

From 2017 to 2018, we were part of the coordination team for the regional activity "Advancing democratic accountability in challenging environments" in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. This long-term mission runs under the three-year EU-funded facility "Supporting Democracy: A Citizen Organisations' Programme". The mission aimed to analyse and evaluate the situation of closing space for civic engagement and to provide CSOs with lessons learned and European Union Delegations with support options to address the issue. DRI led the team of senior country experts in three countries (Botswana, South Africa and Zambia) in fact-finding, consultation and drafting for country case studies on closing space.

Since late 2022, we partnered with GOPA Worldwide Consultants to implement the EU-funded service contract Technical Assistance to operationalise the EU Capacity Building & Engagement Window of the "Enhancing Accountability" programme in South Africa. The three-year project aims to improve South Africa's public governance through enhanced accountability, democratic engagement and transparency. 

Support to European Union election observation and assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond

We have a long track record of advising the European Union in electoral matters in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly around EU Election Observation Missions on the continent. 

We deployed various EU Exploratory Missions (ExMs) to assess the pre-conditions for and advise on the feasibility of EU Election Observation Missions (EOMs) in the countries. Our expert worked in Sudan in 2009, Chad, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda in 2010, Senegal in 2011 and Kenya in 2012. To provide assessments and evaluations on specialised election topics, we deployed EU Election Expert Missions (EEMs) to Rwanda and Zimbabwe (2010), The Gambia (2011) and Zimbabwe (2013). 

Currently, we're a consortium partner with the German International Cooperation (GIZ) to implement Election Observation and Democracy Support (EODS) III, the capacity-building project for EU Election Observation, funded by the European Commission. Its main areas of support are:

  1. Strengthening the EU Election Observation Mission methodology
  2. Building the capacity of EU election missions to assess the impact of social media on elections
  3. Coordinating the communication strategy for EU election missions
  4. Training election observation specialists in EU methodology and key election principles 
  5. Developing tools to support the operational aspects of EU election observation

We're responsible for introducing social media monitoring in EU EOMs worldwide, focusing strongly on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Our Key expert has trained social media analysts for deployment in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sao Tomé e Príncipe, Senegal, and Zimbabwe. 

We are at the forefront of organisations developing and testing ways to observe social media, particularly around elections, to monitor disinformation, fake news and hate speech. DRI has developed the Digital Democracy Monitor, a tailor-made toolkit that allows election observers, particularly from civil society, to monitor their own social media. 

Democratic governance is essential for the stability and development of any society. Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of a democratic system, ensuring that the voices of the people are heard and that leaders are held accountable. However, conducting credible and transparent elections can be daunting, particularly in countries with fragile democracies and weak institutions. In such situations, domestic election observers and international election assistance are critical to ensuring the integrity of the electoral process.