Electoral violence occurs in many African countries. Tragically, thousands are killed and displaced during election cycles on the continent. Over the next year and a half, Presidential elections are scheduled in thirteen sub-Saharan African countries, raising fears that, as in the past, violent incidents or conflict may erupt again. But what can African nations do to lessen electoral violence?
Our Chart of the Week taken from recent IMF research suggests that women’s participation in the workforce could make election-related violence less likely in Africa. Nearly half the individuals surveyed say that they fear becoming a victim of electoral violence. That figure declines by a quarter if the female-to-male labor force participation ratio increases by 5 per cent points.
Can women then, be the leading force for democratic and peaceful elections in Africa? Any kind of exclusion is, as we economists would say, “suboptimal”. Women are crucial partners in generating social cohesion and political legitimacy. Their participation in the workforce and at the different levels of decision-making help ensure that more and diverse members of the population are heard, and that those voices are engaged in electoral violence prevention and peacemaking.
Yet the gender gap is very large in some African nations. Women are still largely absent from peace processes and decision-making circles. Addressing the structural inequality in Africa could help mitigate electoral violence and stem its escalation. Given this potential win-win for all, African leaders should pay more attention to gender inequality, and adopt appropriate policies to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens. In short, give women the voice they deserve.
The writer is an economist at International Monetary Fund