Afrobarometer co-founder and Board Chair, Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, has disclosed that public-attitude surveys demonstrated that ordinary Africans have the tendency and ability to voice their opinions, regardless of the narratives pushed by experts and pundits.
Addressing participants in a dialogue hosted by Future Africa at the University of Pretoria on the theme: ‘The Afrobarometer story and reflections on evidence for policy’, Mr Gyimah-Boadi highlighted the research network’s first critical milestone at the dawn of the new millennium.
Retracing Afrobarometer’s beginnings, he stated that Afrobarometer successfully finalized a comprehensive data set from 12 countries. He noted that the work decisively refuted doubts raised by skeptical reviewers of Afrobarometer’s initial funding proposal, proving them “unequivocally wrong”.
“Moreover, we demonstrated that ordinary Africans have the agency and ability to voice their opinions, regardless of the narratives pushed by experts, pundits, and assorted elites.”Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi
Explaining how Afrobarometer moved from pen-and-paper surveys to using tablets and other technologies today, Afrobarometer CEO, Joseph Asunka, explained that technology allows the organization to have good quality control. He noted that this is so because one can see the GPS locations of where the enumerators are conducting the surveys.
“You can see them moving from house to house, and you can go back and trace which houses they entered and who they conducted the interviews with, all while guaranteeing the privacy of the respondents.”Joseph Asunka
Going ahead to share Afrobarometer survey findings on democracy and governance, Mr Asunka emphasized that its data is valuable for policy makers in the sense that it can be used as a rock on which to stand to pursue policies.
Survey on Africans support for democracy
Per Afrobarometer’s data, clear majorities of Africans expressed support for democracy and accountable governance. Across 36 African countries surveyed in 2021-2022, two-thirds (66%) of citizens say they prefer democracy to any other system of government.
However, even more reject non-democratic alternatives such as one-man rule (80%), one-party rule (78%), and military rule (67%).
Africans also strongly endorsed many of the norms, institutions, and practices associated with democratic governance, such as choosing political leaders through the ballot box (75%) and placing constitutional limits on presidential tenure (74%).
Additionally, Africans equally endorsed multiparty competition, which garnered some 64%, free media attracting 65% and holding government accountable polled 61%.
However, Afrobarometer Digital Portfolio Manager, Shannon van Wyk-Khosa, expressed a “great disillusionment between the youth and those who govern them”. Generally, she noted that there are lots of African youth who feel they are not being listened to by their governments.
Compared to their elders, the youth are even more critical of institutional corruption and show considerable distrust in public institutions. They are also more likely than their elders – by 10 percentage points compared to those over age 55, to express a willingness to tolerate military intervention if elected leaders abuse their power.
The partnership between Afrobarometer and Future Africa, launched in 2021, aims to strengthen collaboration between the two institutions. This is intended to achieve capacity building workshops and seminars and the co-development of training materials to introduce students to the collection, analysis, and communication of public opinion data.
The event forms part of the research platform’s Dialogue Series, which aims to stimulate bold ideas and disruptive thinking on how science can make a difference to real-world problems and how best to enable it.