BBC explores state of democracy across Africa in major new documentary

►► In a year where nearly a third of African nations head to the polls, BBC World Service will explore the state of democracy across the world’s fastest-growing continent in a new milestone documentary, Africa: The Battle for the Ballot Box.



Presented by correspondent Nomsa Maseko, the documentary – which premieres as part of BBC World Service Presents – examines the historical and socio-economic context of democracy across Africa, alongside recent the challenges of reported coups, corruption, and worsening security situations.


Africa: The Battle for the Ballot Box will see Nomsa Maseko return to her home country of South Africa, three decades into its democratic journey since the end of apartheid, to interview experts and citizens. It will also tackle pressing issues such as access to public healthcare, economic opportunities, and inequality in the country.


Reflecting on her childhood experience witnessing the first democratic elections, Maseko says: “On the 27th of April in 1994, we started queuing from 6 a.m., filled with both hope and anxiety. I was too young to vote back then, but I saw what it meant for black South Africans to be free, finally to choose their own government.” She added: “Thousands of Black people lined up with their fists in the air chanting ‘We are free!’ and I understood that now I was too.”



In the documentary, we hear from experts and academics including Professor Nic Cheeseman of the University of Birmingham who highlights the complex situation on the continent: “We see a significant decline in the quality of democracy across the continent. But it is also true that we see positive stories every year as well as negative stories.” He added: “We’re getting a continent that has countries that are getting towards being real strong democracies and countries that are so far away from democracy, they haven’t really moved since the 1990s.”


The film explores the historical context of colonialism, including decades of resistance against apartheid and highlights the significance of South Africa’s first elections for the world, especially for Africans.


Africa: The Battle for the Ballot Box will examine the recent rise in reported military coups in Africa. A 2022 study by the African Youth Survey highlights a decline in confidence among young Africans in the continent’s future, where a significant portion of the population (70%) is under 30.


Sola Tayo, Executive Producer, says: “Thirty years on from the first democratic elections, South Africa has reached a pivotal point. Different generations are grappling with very complex feelings about the governing party and the way their society is evolving. This year, a third of African countries will be engaged in elections and dealing with their own challenges. This documentary is a timely exploration of the democratic landscape in the world’s fastest growing continent….seen through the eyes of its people.”



Vara Szajkowski, Executive Producer says: “This documentary reflects a range of voices across Africa, from everyday citizens to experts and academics. They share their firsthand experiences with democracy, exploring their hopes and concerns about voting, leadership, and the future. We believe these stories offer a powerful and nuanced perspective on the challenges and possibilities facing African democracies. »


Africa: The Battle for the Ballot Box is available on BBC News, BBC iPlayer and the BBC World Service YouTube channel from 4 May 2024.


The documentary premieres at BBC World Service Presents where BBC presenter and host Waihiga Mwaura will introduce the film. A discussion will then follow with panellists; Halima Aden, model and campaigner, Elham Saudi, co-founder and Director of Lawyers for Justice in Libya, Immaculate Akello, eco-feminist and lawyer, and Ibijoke Faborode, co-founder and CEO of ElectHER.



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