High-level Conference in Cape Town to Examine the State of Democracy in Central and Southern Africa

3 Sep 2019 - 17:15

  • The conference is a joint project of the Kofi Annan Foundation and The Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance and supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).
  • Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, will open the meeting
  • Graça Machel, a member of The Elders and outgoing Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, will present the keynote address.
  • The conference seeks to take stock of democratic development in the region and equip democratic forces with ideas and tools to deepen democracy across the region. 
  • It will produce a synthesis report with recommendations and actions points.

Cape Town – The conference, titled “Democracy in Central and Southern Africa: The Road Ahead” will take place in Cape Town from 4 to 5 September 2019. The conference is an initiative by the Kofi Annan Foundation and is being organised in partnership with the University of Cape Town’s Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance with support from the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).

“Elections without integrity cannot provide the winners with legitimacy, the losers with security and the public with confidence in their leaders and institutions”, says Alan Doss, President of the Kofi Annan Foundation. “This conference will provide a platform for much needed exchanges to deepen democracy throughout central and southern Africa.”

 “This conference is inspired by the leadership and legacy of Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan. Nelson Mandela taught us that the first step towards a solution of intractable challenges is to develop the capacity to hold diametrically opposite ideas in our heads at the same time and to feel comfortable with these ideas,” says Prof Faizel Ismail, the Director of the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance.

The objective of the Conference will be to:

  • Take stock of democratic development in the region;
  • Identify key obstacles and drivers of democratisation in the region through panel discussions;
  • Equip democratic forces with ideas and tools to deepen democracy across the region 
  • Identify virtuous circles of democratic power that may lie within or outside the state
  • Interrogate the role of transnational governance to strengthen advocates of democracy across the continent;
  • Provide a platform to present solutions to the challenges that threaten democracy in Central & Southern Africa.

The conference will include representatives from governments, political parties, civil society organisations, academia and the media from countries across the region.

Six panels will examine different facets of democratic life in the region, including: the strengths and weaknesses of Southern Africa’s Governance, the obstacles to electoral integrity, the role of civil society and youth for democratic life across the region and the challenges and opportunities of the digital age for elections and democracy.


The panel’s key takeaways will be captured in a synthesis report that will be published subsequently. It will contain cutting-edge approaches strengthening electoral integrity throughout central and southern Africa.

The programme of the conference is available for download here.

The conference can be followed via livestream here.

About the Kofi Annan Foundation’s Elections and Democracy Programme

Elections are the established mechanism for the peaceful arbitration of political rivalry and transfers of power. In practice however, many elections actually prove deeply destabilizing, sometimes triggering conflict and violence. The Kofi Annan Foundation’s Elections and Democracy Programme advises countries and practitioners on how to strengthen the integrity and legitimacy of their electoral processes and avoid election related violence. Looking beyond technical requirements, the Foundation focuses on creating conditions for legitimate elections, making it possible to govern in a climate of trust and transparency.