Storyful Blog

YouTube offers window on Africa's elections

Storyful’s headline elections project was last year’s US presidential election, where we partnered with YouTube to highlight the best from both sides of the velvet rope and bring it to the world via

The genesis for that relationship came out of a Storyful project that started in Africa, back in 2011. Storyful partnered with Google Africa to help power an election portal for the Nigerian elections in April of that year, and we’ve been doing it ever since. The portals harness the best content emerging from elections and pull them together in one place.

We’ve helped Google source the very best YouTube content from Senegal, Cameroon, Egypt and Ghana, and now we’re helping them cover Kenya’s upcoming election in March.

In the four years since Obama came to power in the US, his electoral campaign has sent reverberations around the world, and the ripples of how it was conducted have been visible in every country we’ve covered. A social media presence has become a primary means by which to connect to the electorate, and nearly every African presidential race we’ve covered had one candidate who dominated the social media sphere, using tactics that have now become familiar to all politics junkies. In Senegal, Macky Sall went on to win the presidential run-off and depose Abdoulaye Wade, who was running for a controversial third term. Sall dominated internet coverage, posting regular campaign updates as he toured the country.

Ghana’s online figurehead would go on to lose by three per cent in a run-off, but for the duration of the December 2012 elections Nana Akufo Addo owned the online constituency. His New Patriotic Party commissioned full-scale scripted ads for the web (and more pointed attack ads), with actors jokingly poking fun at the failed policies of the previous NDC administration, in English and in their native tongue. Of course, YouTube eventually got the better of Addo, when a video of his podium collapsing at a rally was circulated widely – the most viral moment of the entire campaign.

Ghana’s online election was also made interesting by the appearance of ‘Ghana Decides’ – a grassroots group which paired election monitoring, with the production of high-end video diaries of the process, which helped to bring the election process alive. On top of that, Google Hangouts were put to innovative use as a way to both live-stream debates and radio shows (Accra’s CitiFM must have nearly burned out their webcam on election day) and then immediately publish the related content to YouTube. This technology effectively lowers the barrier to entry for broadcast, meaning a greater breadth of independent coverage, from interest groups, independent media and others.

Of course, livestreaming like that is relatively new, and even back in April 2011, we were still feeling our way quite slowly. However, Nigeria’s election proved that all you needed to hold a mirror up to democracy’s failings was a camera in the right place at the right time. On the social media map we maintained for that election, you can see one example of a fraudulent voter being caught in the act, putting her thumbprint on several ballot papers with the help of an electoral official.

Because of the Arab spring, many people see social media’s democratic role as being to foment dissent and revolution, and to be a catalyst for change. The way that sub-Saharan countries use the medium shows that it can be just as important and effective as a means to monitor the process of relatively healthy democracies.

YouTube has been a vital window for the world into how these countries’ democratic processes have played out. More importantly, it has become a way for groups within the country to ensure that there is an omniscient eye at polling stations to show that ballot boxes are not tampered with, or that delays are explained. It’s not as ‘sexy’ as a full-scale revolution, but if social media can help democracy work smoothly and fairly, and avoid chaos in the streets, it’s certainly something to shout and sing about.


One comment on “YouTube offers window on Africa's elections

  1. Pingback: Storyful Partners, Google Partner To Launch Kenyan Election Only YouTube channel | TechMoran

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This entry was posted on January 23, 2013 by in Partnerships, Social media.
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