For a continent with 54 countries, it is not unusual for Africa to see multiple elections in the average year. However, 2015 is set be “remarkably stacked”, according to analysis from South Africa’s Standard Bank, with nearly one in three countries across the region headed for major parliamentary or presidential polls.
While 2014’s election cycles mostly hugged the more stable countries of southern Africa, the seventeen contests set for 2015 will see some of the region’s more volatile and oppressive states - including Sudan, South Sudan, Cote D’Ivoire, Libya, Burundi and the Central African Republic - casting their ballots.
Elections globally can often be sensitive times, elevating risk for businesses and investors. In Africa in particular, many countries - including market leaders like Kenya and Nigeria - regularly experience election related violence. Government spending can also become more erratic, as contestants roll out projects with populist appeal and extend favors to supporters.
Nigeria’s fraught elections, originally scheduled for 14 February, will likely command most attention, according to Standard Bank’s analysis. Now that elections have been delayed six weeks by the country’s electoral commission, citing security concerns related to the violent Boko Haram insurgency based in the country’s northeast, scrutiny is bound to increase.
“The postponement does not come as a shock, given the increasing intensity of Boko Haram attacks,” says Amy Gibbs, an associate with insurer JLT. “If the polls are postponed again, Nigeria’s investment reputation will suffer as vital economic decisions are put on hold”.
If 2015 is looking at a “complicated” set of political transitions, the omens from the previous year auger well for the progress of multiparty democracy across the continent. Of the twelve elections that took place in 2014, seven witnessed a change in leadership. Of those, five included a transfer of power to another party.
Tolerance for behavior that undermines democratic institutions also appears to be on the wane. In Burkina Faso, long time president Blaise Compaore was forced to flee the country in November 2014 after protesters rose up in response to his bid to amend the constitution to extend his term. A similar attempt by Demoratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s president Joseph Kabila in January 2015 was met with days of riots, and he was forced to abandon the project.
Other sitting heads of state may also attempt to extend their terms despite risking violent protests in response. Burundi is a likely candidate, where president Pierre Nkurunziza has already announced his intention to seek a third term.
Though slated for this year, election timelines in the likes of the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Libya remain uncertain, according to the briefing note. All three countries are grappling with ongoing civil wars.
This article was originally published by This Is Africa (www.thisisafricaonline.com), a sister publication to fDi.