Mobile phones connect voters in Angola
by Magdala De Borja and Laura Devos
When Manuel Senduca, a 20-year old cleaner working for a private company in Luanda, headed to a polling station for the first time, he felt a great sense of responsibility. As a young citizen, voting gave him the chance to have a say in his country’s future.
- An estimated 6.1 million Angolans headed to the polls for the first general election since the country's new constitution came into effect.
- The 2012 presidential election was the second since Angola became independent in 1975.
- In addition to funding the SMS campaign, the programme organized civic education workshops, training hundreds of members of the national electoral commission so they could run the elections more smoothly.
Also based in Angola’s capital, João Pedro, a driver aged in his sixties, voted for the third time. João hesitated to vote this year because casting his ballot the previous times had been arduous due to general confusion over where, when and how to vote. Besides, it was unclear to him whether his vote would have any impact on the results.
On 31 August 2012, Manuel and João were among the estimated 6.1 million Angolans who headed to the polls for the first general election since the country's new constitution came into effect. It was also the second presidential election since Angola became independent in 1975.
Today, both men agree the use of an SMS messaging system which provided practical information direct to their mobile phones about where and how to vote, made it easier to take part in the election.
This advance was made possible by a European Union-funded US$275,000 programme of support for Angola’s electoral cycle implemented by UNDP. In addition to funding the SMS campaign, the programme organized civic education workshops in five of the country’s 18 provinces (Luanda, Benguela, Huila, Cabinda and Huambo), training hundreds of members of the national electoral commission so they could run the elections more smoothly.
The initiative also provided vital training and logistical support to the Angolan Electoral Observatory (ObEA), a consortium of 56 national non-governmental organizations involved in organizing the ballot. UNDP helped develop an information kit for election observers, including guidelines. ObEA dispatched 1,500 observers who certified political party representation, ballots and procedures in 802 polling stations across the country.
The European Commission and UNDP Partnership on Electoral Assistance includes specific support to Angola and the four other Portuguese-speaking African countries. The partnership promotes the exchange of information and experiences in Portuguese to improve the capacity of parliaments, electoral management bodies and the media to fulfill their roles in relation to their respective electoral processes.