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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). My research focuses primarily on political parties and judicial politics in Africa.

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 Program on Governance and Local Development (University of Gothenburg).

A second stream of research assesses judicial power in Africa and 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

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. Most studies rely on data supplied by national statistics agencies or the judgments of expert observers. And while scholars acknowledge that the quality of the African state is likely shaped by geographic and ethnic differences within countries, few have measured how state capacity varies at the sub-national level. 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 of the state salient to the African context: its reach, or physical presence at the grassroots across the breadth of a country, and its professionalism, or
ability to deliver public services in a proficient and ethical manner. 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.

Party footprints in Africa: Measuring local party presence across the continent, with Sarah J. Lockwood & Robert Mattes, 2021, Party Politics.

Abstract: The conventional view of Africa’s political parties holds that they are organizationally weak, with little presence at the grass roots. Yet, few studies are based on systematically collected data about more than a handful of parties or countries at any given point. In this paper, we attempt to remedy this situation, by focusing on one crucial aspect of party organization – the local presence that enables political parties to engage with and mobilize voters during and between elections – and developing the first systematic, survey-based measure of the extent of this presence across 35 countries. We draw on a wide variety of data to demonstrate the validity and reliability of this new index, and in the process showcase its ability to be calculated at a number of different levels. Finally, we illustrate its utility by applying it to a key substantive question in the literature.

This article is part of a symposium on Party Structures and Organization Building in Africa published in Party Politics and co-edited by Sarah J. Lockwood, Robert Mattes and myself.

The symposium also features articles by Aikande Kwayu (“Determinants of a Political Party’s Social Media Strategy: A Comparative Analysis of Tanzania’s Opposition Political Parties’ Twitter Practices“), Dan Paget (“Lone Organizers: Opposition Party Building in Hostile Places in Tanzania“), Consolata Sully (“Democracy within Parties: Electoral Consequences of Candidate Selection Methods in Tanzania“), and Shana Warren, “Democratizing Candidate Selection: Controlled Turnover in Botswana’s Bulela Ditswe Primaries“.