In contrast to what a layman might choose to believe, lobbying isn’t inherently bad. It’s true that interest groups do lobbying to press their cause. But the causes which they support are often beneficial for society as a whole. Take the example of Greta Thunberg. The Swedish child is representing many lobbying groups that are lobbying world governments to take action on climate change and save our futures.
Having addressed this glaring misconception about lobbying, it’s time we turn our attention to the most pervasive lobbying techniques in Africa.
1- Building Close Personal Contacts
Whether you want to lobby a presidential or a parliamentary political system, you got to have close connections with those sitting in the corridors of power. That would foster credibility and trust and allow them to hear you espousing the merits of your cause with an open mind.
2- Using all forms of media
Every time you read a newspaper, its inner pages contain a story or two about some ‘civil society’ group urging the government to take action on some pressing issue. What purpose do you think that having the news of that seminar in the newspaper will serve? It will build pressure on the government to act as media amplifies the voices of the lobbyists in multiple ways.
3- Funding think tanks
If you’re a voracious reader, you might be regularly coming across reports by think tanks. These reports are based on the cause and effect template – i.e. they pick an issue, identify its causes, predict their effects, and pinpoint a solution that the government could provide. These reports are yet another tactic that lobbyists employ to have their voices heard in the corridors of power.
4- Running grass-roots campaigns
Some interest groups try to influence policy by running grassroots campaigns. That might include marshaling their constituents and gathering people who are in support of a particular cause. The National Rifle Association (NRA) in the US is a good example. Its members regularly carry out marches in support of the 2nd amendment in the US constitution, which gives them the right to bear arms.
5- Creating a Political Action Committee
Political action committees are groups that raise money and distribute it among political candidates. More often than not, they are the campaign-financing wing of lobbying groups. This affiliation means that they use the voice of their candidates to protect the interest of groups that they’re associated with. This tactic of lobbying, though rare, still exists in Africa.
6- Knocking at the court’s door
Litigation is one of the most powerful, though time-consuming, techniques of lobbying. It entails the interest group filing petitions in courts against a specific policy of the government. Both the parties are then called by the honorable judge to submit their replies.
If the lobbying group had gone to the court with a watertight case, it could get a favorable judgment that would force the government to reverse the questionable policy.
It should go without saying that none of the lobbying techniques mentioned above might come useful in all possible scenarios. While there might be instances where legislation could open the door, grassroots campaigns might prove to be more effective, in the other. That means that it’s the type of the cause which determines the best lobbying tactic, and not the other way around.