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Researchers to investigate impact of Covid-19 on African elections with UK Government funding

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science (SPS) have received £367,000 from the UK Government to investigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on elections in Africa.

The award is part of a £7.2 million investment by the UK Government for 20 research projects across the UK, including at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde, to help provide developing countries with sustainable solutions to respond to Covid-19 and future pandemics.

The impact of Covid-19 on African elections

The University of Edinburgh project, led by Dr Thomas Molony at SPS, will receive £367,000 to investigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on elections in Africa.

Working in partnership with colleagues in the Central African Republic, Ghana and Tanzania, the study will find ways to protect the electorate from Covid-19 transmission. 

The project team - comprising of country specialists, leading public health researchers, and election experts - plans to investigate multiple stages of each election, tracking patterns of turnout and using surveys (with gender-balanced samples) to investigate attitudes towards voting so that any emergent gender inequality is highlighted. 

Dr Thomas Molony, Director of the Centre of African Studies at SPS, said:

“Elections give people the opportunity to shape the future of their societies. Such decisions are crucial in the context of Covid-19, which has drastically affected lives around the globe. 

“A number of elections are still due to take place this year in Africa, and there are a further 18 elections scheduled for 2021.

“By working to reduce the risks of Covid-19 transmission during elections, we're contributing towards one of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): to ensure healthy lives and promote the wellbeing for all at all ages. 

“We are also interested in democracy. The Covid-19 pandemic has the potential for democratic back-sliding, where the quality and legitimacy of elections are undermined - either unintentionally because of safety measures, or intentionally where incumbents seek to instrumentalise the virus through authoritarian measures designed to benefit themselves.”

The University of Strathclyde project

The University of Strathclyde project, led by Dr Pratima Sambajee, will receive £199,579 in funding to look at how Covid-19 has impacted workers’ rights in Mauritius and how improvements can be made.

The hardest hit are workers in tourism and hospitality, textile factories and the informal economy. Examples include reduced compensation, withholding of workers’ annual leave and exemption from negotiations with workers’ organisations (unions) by employers prior to reduction of the workforce.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:

“These remarkable projects will play a critical role in helping to address the issue of Covid-19 transmission at elections in the developing world and help ensure workers’ rights are protected.

“Adapting to the risks of Covid-19 has been especially hard for the world’s most vulnerable communities. 

“It’s great news that Scottish researchers are helping the international community respond to the pandemic and making an impact tackling Covid-19 globally.”

Other funded projects

Other projects receiving UK Government funding include delivering mass vaccination capacity in Bangladesh, protective equipment for refugees in Jordan and remote healthcare access for patients in Nigeria.

The £7.2 million UK government funding will be managed by UK aid programmes, the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund.

You can read the full list of projects and more about them on the UKRI website. 

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