What do we know about the public opinion in Africa after 25 years?

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DiA’s own Nic Cheeseman, aka @fromagehomme, has published a new column for the Africa Report looking at what we know about democracy in Africa after twenty five years of research by the Afrobarometer survey.

“Twenty five years ago an unheralded development transformed the way we understand Africa. It wasn’t an election victory for the opposition, or a new scandal about what an irresponsible government had been up to. It was the creation of the Afrobarometer, the pan African research group, which now runs surveys in more than 40 countries.

New research initiatives don’t often make history, but this one was different. Three professors – Michael Bratton, E. Gyimah-Boadi, and Robert Mattes – came together with a shared vision of creating a world in which Africa’s development is anchored in the realities and aspirations of its people. Tired of reading analysis of the continent that ignored its citizens – or worse, assumed what they thought – they set out to give citizens a voice in the decisions that shape their lives.

In doing so, they changed Africa’s information landscape. For the first time, it was possible to second guess what leaders said about their people’s needs and desires on the basis of reliable data collected in a systematic way across multiple countries.

This was a big undertaking. Conducting surveys in authoritarian countries is not easy, and there are still some states too repressive or dangerous to be included. It is even more challenging when at least 1,200 people have to be interviewed at the household level in the language of their choosing after being selected through a strict randomization procedure. Yet despite facing a tough funding environment the Afrobarometer has gone from strength-to-strength, in part because it has consistently taught us new and important lessons about everything from how ethnicity works to what people really think of Western powers.

The Afrobarometer’s 25th is therefore one birthday worth celebrating, and this column gets the party started by looking at the many gifts it has given us over the years …”

To read the full article click here

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