As we approach the next election cycle in Africa, it is important to take stock of the various factors that influence a voter on who and how they vote. Africa has made significant strides towards democratic processes in the recent past, but distinct challenges still exist when it comes to fostering free and fair elections. One crucial aspect that continually impacts the outcome of elections is the factors that determine the voting behaviour of the electorate.

Firstly, tribalism and ethnicity continue to play a significant role in shaping voters’ opinions and decision-making. In Africa, people have a strong attachment to their ethnic and clan identities, and this invariably influences their voting choices. Political leaders often align themselves to specific ethnic groups, thereby creating the perception that their interests are only served if the particular candidate from their tribe wins. Consequently, voters tend to vote along tribal and ethnic lines, rather than on principled grounds pertinent to policymaking. This explains why the failure to nurture and promote intra-ethnic cohesion often results in an increase in electoral conflict and violence especially after elections.

Secondly, poverty and economic status also determine how voters cast their ballots. In Africa, poverty levels remain high, and the vast majority of citizens living below the poverty line can easily be swayed by promises of monetary or material incentives. Candidates often take advantage of this vulnerability to buy votes. This is a significant concern in the African context, where most people are low-income earners and, hence, more vulnerable to such influence.

Thirdly, influence from friends and family can impact how voters decide. Word of mouth is a popular way of sharing information and disseminating ideas in Africa, and the same applies to political campaigns. Often, people will lean towards candidates who are aligned with their friends and family’s opinions. The influence of social media cannot be underestimated as people can easily be lured into a specific candidate’s propaganda.

In conclusion, these factors all come together to shape an individual’s voting behaviour during elections. To promote free and fair elections, we must address these factors to ensure that decisions are based purely on governance and not on their tribal or ethnic affiliations. Improving educational and economic levels of citizens, promoting good governance, providing equal opportunities and fighting corruption among other things can eliminate these factors as determinants of electoral decision-making.