WATCH: African MPs – Out of touch elites or put upon servants? is ready to view now

Sishuwa Sishuwa chairs the debate
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Watch the fourth joint webinar of the Institute for Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa at the University of Cape Town and Democracy in Africa now. Check back soon for details of the next webinar.

Members of Parliament (MPs) face a daunting task. They should perform four core functions: making laws, overseeing the executive, representing constituents’ views and opinions in the legislature, and constituency service (i.e., what the MP does back in the district). However, no MP can carry out each of these functions to the same extent, or to the same level of effectiveness.

While scholars often emphasize the exchange of material incentives between MPs and citizens in the African context (e.g., monetary favours or jobs), much less is known about how representative MPs are of their MPs, or how well MPs represent their constituents. This webinar explores both descriptive and substantive representation of Africans by their MPs.

Edalina Sanches provides an overview of the current academic literature that sets the scene for her empirical exploration of descriptive representation in Ghana, as well as citizens’ demand for representation in the country.

Next, Anja Osei shares comparative data from her ongoing research project on the networks of MPs across several African countries. She highlights that MPs are often embedded in dense networks with each other (e.g., attended same university, grew up in the same neighbourhood, family ties, attending the same church).

Robert Mattes presents new findings on how well African MPs represent their constituents substantively – a basic aspect of serving constituents. Specifically, Robert and his collaborators ask whether. They show that the extent to which citizens and MPs agree on what the biggest issues are for the country vary across countries and constituencies in meaningful ways.

Carlos Shenga provides an in-depth longitudinal analysis of how well Mozambican legislators represent their citizens’ concerns. In addition to highlighting aspects of descriptive representation, he also focuses on policy preferences, and provides new insight into how well civil society is able to incorporate inputs to the legislative process.


Anja Osei (Konstanz University)

Robert Mattes (University of Strathclyde)

Edalina Sanches (University of Lisbon)

Carlos Shenga (University Joaquim Chissano)


Sishuwa Sishuwa (University of Cape Town)

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