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I am a PhD student in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and a graduate researcher at the Institute of Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa (IDCPPA) / Afrobarometer.

I study Comparative Politics and Political Behavior, focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, I am interested in the challenges of how citizens engage with political parties and government bureaucracies. My dissertation examines the role of political parties as “Conveyor Belts of Information” shaping citizens’ satisfaction with basic service delivery in Africa. My research has been supported by the IDCPPA and the Governance and Local Development Institute (University of Gothenburg).

A second stream of research assesses judicial power in Africa and its implications for citizens’ perception of the courts on the one hand, and the quality of elections on the other. Parts of this research have been supported by the Norwegian Embassy and the Social Justice Initiative via the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit at UCT.

Most recent work

Lack of ownership of mobile phones could hinder the rollout of mHealth interventions in Africa, with Justin T Okanon, Joan Ponce, and Sally Blower, 2022, eLife.

Abstract: Mobile health (mHealth) interventions, which require ownership of mobile phones, are being investigated throughout Africa. We estimate the percentage of individuals who own mobile phones in 33 African countries, identify a relationship between ownership and proximity to a health clinic (HC), and quantify inequities in ownership. We investigate basic mobile phones (BPs) and smartphones (SPs): SPs can connect to the internet, BPs cannot. We use nationally representative data collected in 2017–2018 from 44,224 individuals in Round 7 of the Afrobarometer surveys. We find 82% of individuals in 33 countries own mobile phones: 42% BPs and 40% SPs. Individuals who live close to an HC have higher odds of ownership than those who do not. Additionally, we find that men, urban residents and wealthier citizens are more likely to own mobile phones. If the digital devices needed for mHealth interventions are not equally available within the population (which we have found is the current situation), rolling out mHealth interventions in Africa is likely to propagate already existing inequities in access to healthcare.

Mapping State Capacity in Africa: Professionalism and Reach, with Robert Mattes and Vinothan Naidoo, 2022 | Pre-print (Afrobarometer Working Paper No. 190).

Abstract: Whether depicted as bloated, extractive, or remote from the lives of ordinary citizens, the African state is widely seen to lack the necessary capacity to provide for the physical and material security of its citizens or to command legitimacy. Yet scholars have rarely attempted to assess the performance of the African state through the prism of the lived experiences of those whom the state is meant to serve – its citizens. In this paper, we address this situation by using survey research measures of respondents’ proximity to state services and actual experiences with civil servants to measure two distinct dimensions – Reach and Professionalism. The results reveal new perspectives on which states excel on either or both dimensions. They also illustrate how widely state performance varies at the sub-national level. Finally, we use survey data to assess the performance of the state, and show that it is the degree of professionalism, and sometimes reach, that enables the state to provide security and welfare, satisfy demands, and secure popular legitimacy. But in contrast to usual expectations, the size of the state at senior levels has no impact.