IFES Q&A with Former Africa Regional Senior Program Officer
Alex Mintah previously worked as an Africa Regional Senior Program Officer at IFES. He has over ten years of experience in international development, contributing to the advancement of democratic institutions and enhancing electoral processes in Africa. Mintah has contributed to the management and implementation of election management programs focusing on direct technical support to African elections management bodies (EMBs) in technical areas such as voter registration, legal reform and civic and voter education.
How did you get into election management?
Through my studies in political science, international studies and public administration, I came to believe in the political development of a country as a necessary step for it to pursue any meaningful and lasting socio-economic development. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) provided me with the opportunity to channel this belief by contributing to improving the electoral processes specifically and democratic development generally of several countries in Africa. When I first learned about IFES and the work they do, I was fascinated and immediately became very interested. At the time my experience in democracy and governance work was limited, so I explored other avenues where I was strongly suited. IFES first hired me as a Contracts Manager, however I eventually transferred to the Africa Regional Program, where I had the opportunity to work closely on elections management.
What do you consider to be the greatest challenges for democracy and governance projects?
Political corruption and the resulting voter apathy is one of the biggest challenges to projects that seek to engage citizens in increasing and broadening their active participation in electoral processes in order to ensure an inclusive political environment and accountability on the part of those who hold political office. Also, an electoral legal framework that relents on the independence of the election management body (EMB) of the country poses serious challenges to democracy and governance projects across the globe. If the EMB does not have the authority to make decisions on matters related to the electoral processes in the country, it just means there is another hurdle for the project to grapple with in designing and implementing its interventions. Lastly, deep-seated beliefs and customs in certain cultures around the world have, over the years, relegated some groups in the society to the background when it comes to socio-political and economic life. For instance, in many such societies, women, persons with disabilities and youth have been marginalized and discouraged from fully participating in the political discourse and meaningful economic life. This situation presents a difficult challenge that democracy and governance projects often have to embrace, driving the need for innovative solutions to reach out to these marginalized groups.
With over ten years of experience contributing to democracy advancements in Africa, what do you consider to be necessary components or best practices for a country to successfully implement valid elections?
The independence of the EMB, openness and transparency in the electoral processes, and the resolve on the part of the political system to fully engage the citizens in an inclusive manner are some of the necessary components of a democratic system and best practices that will ensure elections that are free, fair, transparent and acceptable to all stakeholders. In such systems, citizens are active participants in the electoral process and mobilize resources to collaborate and hold their own government accountable and ensure that their needs are effectively met.
Did you feel that your work at IFES helped you grow professionally? Which IFES experience (technical or other) do you value the most?
IFES has played an important role in my professional career as an elections expert. My experience as a Senior Program Officer at IFES helped place my career in the right direction to pursue my goal to become an elections expert. I had an incredible opportunity at IFES to learn and contribute to the improvement of electoral processes in the developing world and today I say a big thank you to IFES and all its wonderful people (Asante sana!!!).