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.

Party Footprints in Africa: Measuring Local Party Presence Across the Continent, with Sarah J. Lockwood and Robert Mattes, 2021, Party Politics | Publisher’s version | Pre-Print (Afrobarometer Working Paper No. 186)

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.

Climate Change Literacy in Africa, with Nicholas Simpson, Talbot Andrews, Chris Lennard, Romaric Odoulami, Birgitt Ouweneel, Anna Steynor, and Christopher Trisos, 2021, Nature Climate Change | Publisher’s version | Open Access version | in The Conversation.

Abstract: Climate change literacy encompasses being aware of both climate change and its anthropogenic cause, and thus underpins informed mitigation and adaptation responses. However, climate change literacy rates and their predictors remain poorly understood across the Global South. Here analysis of Africa’s largest representative public opinion survey shows climate change literacy ranges from 23 to 66% of the population across 33 countries, with larger variation at subnational scales (for example, 5–71% among states in Nigeria). Strong positive predictors of climate change literacy are education and mobility, but poverty decreases climate change literacy, and country-level climate change literacy rates are, on average, 12.8% lower for women than men. Perceived drought experiences and historical trends in precipitation are also important predictors. These results highlight where interventions can target specific regions and demographics to increase climate change literacy and help ensure that responses are informed by better understanding of current and future climate change.

Do Electoral Systems Affect How Citizens Hold Their Government Accountable? Evidence From Africa

with Sarah J. Lockwood, 2021, Democratization Publisher’s version| Pre-print (Afrobarometer Working Paper No. 181)

Abstract: This paper asks whether a country’s choice of electoral system affects the methods citizens use to try and hold their government accountable. A large body of literature suggests that electoral system type has an impact on voting behaviour, but little work has been done so far looking at other forms of democratic accountability, such as contacting an elected representative and protesting. Using Round 6 Afrobarometer data, we find that the type of electoral system does indeed have a significant impact on these other forms of participation. Citizens in PR systems are significantly more likely to protest than those in majoritarian ones, while those in majoritarian systems are more likely to contact their elected representatives. We argue that this is because the connection between citizens and representatives in majoritarian systems is clearer, closer and more responsive, making contact an effective strategy and providing an efficient “safety valve” when citizens want to hold their government to account. The lack of a similar connection in most PR systems, in contrast, leads citizens to turn to protest with greater regularity.

The Consequences of Partisanship in Africa: Cognitive Lens or Tribal Straitjacket?

with Robert Mattes, 2020, Research Handbook on Political Partisanship | Publisher’s website

Abstract: The paper provides evidence that partisan identification exists in African polities, though its extent varies considerably across countries. Moreover, we find that partisanship helps people organize their political world. It shapes the way they vote, and also exercises important influences on citizens’ propensity to become involved in a wide range of democratic politics, whether during or between elections. Finally, we produce several nuggets of evidence which suggest that partisanship in Africa constitutes, at least for many voters, a ‘standing choice’ rather than a fixed identity. That is, while voter support for ruling parties is shaped by ethnicity (and other demographic background factors), it is not determined by them. Voter evaluations of the overall direction of the economy, national economic trends, and government responsibility for those trends, matter. Moreover, aggregate levels of identification with the ruling party, or what other scholars have called ‘macropartisanship’, have undergone important, and in some cases dramatic, shifts over time. All of this should be seen as evidence of an important, little-appreciated dimension of vertical accountability in Africa’s multi-party regimes.

The 2019 South African Elections: Incumbency and Uncertainty

with Robert Nyenhuis, 2019, Journal of African Elections | Publisher’s version

Abstract: The 2019 South African elections marked the country’s sixth iteration of free and fair electoral contests since its democratisation in 1994. Although the outcome gives the African National Congress (ANC) yet another five-year mandate, the party has not gone unchallenged at the polls. It registered its lowest national vote share since the transition, a major concern for the party of liberation. The most recent contest also demonstrates the resilience of the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), and the continued upward trajectory of its closest rival, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). In this article, we analyse available survey data on South Africans’ attitudes and offer some empirical answers to account for the election results. We argue that race continues to feature prominently in electoral decision-making but it does so in ways that deviate slightly from conventional wisdom. Further, we put forth an explanation that the parties’ leaders played a central role in shaping citizens’ voting behavior, especially among their own partisan supporters.

Under Review

South African Parties and the Development of Democracy, with Robert Mattes and Sarah J. Lockwood, 2022.

The Role of Partisanship, Identity and Incentives in Mobilizing Zambian Citizens, with Prisca Jöst, Sarah Lockwood and Ellen Lust, 2022 | Pre-print (APSA pre-print).

Where are the Sore Losers? Electoral Authoritarianism, Incumbent Defeat, and Electoral Trust in Zambia’s 2021 Election, with Nicholas Kerr and Michael Wahman.

African Legislators: Unrepresentative Power Elites? with Robert Mattes, and Shaheen Mozaffar, 2023.

Working Papers

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

Explaining Issue Congruence in Africa: MPs and their Constituents, with Robert Mattes and Shaheen Mozaffar, 2022.

Organizing for Success: The Effect of Intra-Party Democracy on Local Level Party Presence, with Sarah J. Lockwood, 2021.

Clients or Partisan Activists? Party Membership and Mobilization in Africa, with Sarah J. Lockwood, 2020.

Works in Progress

Opposition Party Appeals and Political Participation among Black South Africans, with Robert Nyenhuis and Sarah J. Lockwood.

The Myth of the Paper Tiger? Judicial Independence in Africa, with Chris Oxtoby.

The South African Judiciary, with Chris Oxtoby.

Policy Papers and Reports

As Local Government Councils Proliferate, Ugandans Voice Growing Dissatisfaction With Councilors, with Makanga Ronald Kakumba, 2022, Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 83. PDF.

Unresponsive and Corrupt? Ugandan MPs hold key to how citizens perceive them, with Makanga Ronald Kakumba, 2022, Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 81. PDF.

Broad Support for Multiparty Elections, Little Faith in Electoral Institutions: Uganda in Comparative Perspective, 2022, Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 79. PDF

Public Confidence in the Judiciary: A South African Perspective, with Chris Oxtoby, 2020, Judicial Education and Training (7). PDF

Africa’s Digital Divide and the Promise of E-Learning, 2020, Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 66. PDF

Democratic dividend: The Road to Quality Education in Africa, with Lulu Olan’g, 2020, Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 63. PDF

Police in Zimbabwe: Helping hand or iron fist?, with Nicholas Simpson, 2019, Afrobarometer Dispatch No. 296. PDF

Bounded Autonomy: What Limits Zimbabweans’ Trust in their Courts and Electoral Commission?, 2018, Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 52. PDF

Ill-prepared? Health Care Service Delivery in Zimbabwe, with Thomas Isbell, 2018, Afrobarometer Dispatch No. 240. PDF

Trends in Attitudes Toward Foreigners in South Africa, 1997-2011, 2015, Afrobarometer Dispatch No. 44, 2015. PDF