I began working seriously on African politics in 2003 while a Master’s student at Nuffield College, Oxford University.
Having previously studied African politics with Gavin Williams, I began to study Zambian and Senegalese politics under the guidance of Laurence Whitehead. My interest in the ability of founding fathers such as Kenneth Kaunda and Léopold Senghor to maintain political stability by creating one-party states that combined participation and control led me to pursue doctoral research, again at Nuffield College, on Kenya and Zambia with David Anderson.
The apparent democratization of both countries in the 1990s, and the failure of other democratic experiments in Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda encouraged me to focus more heavily on democracy in Africa. While a Junior Research Fellow at New College in 2006, I began to think about when and where successful democratic systems had emerged in Africa, and how the continent’s democratic gains could be best protected. Since being appointed as a University Lecturer in African Politics to Jesus College, Oxford University, I have become increasingly committed to the study of new democracies, motivated in large part by the ‘Kenya crisis’ in 2007/8, when the combination of historical grievances and a bungled election had devastating consequences for the country that I know the best.
Since then, my work has led to frequent media appearances on BBC radio and television, and I regularly brief the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development of the government of the United Kingdom on various issues relating to their Africa policy.
I am heavily involved with the teaching of the African Studies MSc at Oxford University and give lectures on a number of topics within the Core Course on ‘Themes in History and the Social Science in Africa,’ including sessions on the African state, civil society, and democratization.
I provide lectures on comparative methods and the Afrobarometer as part of the Core Course on ‘Methodology, Ethics and Research,’ and I also offer an Optional Paper on ‘Democracy in Africa,’ which is available to students on the African Studies MSc and Development Studies M.Phil. At the same time, I teach for the Department of Politics and International Relations, taking classes on the state, development, and electoral politics for the M.Phil in Comparative Government. Students on the African Studies MSc and some other Masters’ courses can also take the ‘Democracy in Africa’ Option Paper. Last but by no means least I supervise a wide range of MSc, M.Phil, and Doctoral students working on African studies and comparative politics. I am particularly keen to supervise doctoral research in the following areas:
- Democratization in Africa
- International democracy promotion in Africa
- Political parties in new democracies
- Political particiapation in African one-party states