Ongoing Research Projects

Explaining the influence of African regional organizations on the quality of democracy (dissertation project)

African regional organizations (EAC, ECOWAS, SADC, and the African Union) have increasingly become involved in election processes. The dissertation examines this ongoing trend and how it influences the quality of elections.

Explaining public opinion on African regional organizations and the role in supporting quality election and peace

African regional organizations have intervened in election processes and have become involved in conflict countries. This research project examines how citizens view the engagements of regional organizations.

African Regional Organizations

I am interested in the African Union and the politically salient African regional organizations of the East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Southern African Development Community (SADC) among other organizations and multilateral programs, such as NEPAD and APRM. The central question for my research is how do African regional organizations help or hinder democratization? In answering this question, I visited each of the regional organizations mentioned to understand the inner structure and workings of the organizations. Broadly speaking, I am interested in how Pan-Africanism sentiments translate into regional action, particularly surrounding elections.

Democratization & election quality

One important aspect of democracy is regular, free and fair elections. I am interested in how one measures the quality of elections and how information, from civil society and international stakeholders, is gathered and used to mitigate election-related concerns. International stakeholders (e.g., the UN, African regional organizations, NGOs such as EISA, NDI, and IFES) have increasingly become involved in elections through election observation, support for civic education and pre-election preparation, and election management. I am interested in measuring how effective these efforts have been and where areas for improved support can be found.

Political Parties

Political parties are important ways for citizens and elites to articulate their interests. Yet, across African countries, there is a great variation in the level of political party institutionalization, structure, and decision-making approaches. In many countries, political parties revolve around one single leader and their relationship to a patronage network and ethnic or regional community. I am interested in what steps can be taken to further institutionalize parties, specifically increasing levels of intra-party democracy, with leaders renewed through participatory means.

Leaders & Leadership

There have been very few attempts to carefully understand leaders and leadership outside of case studies of major leaders, such as Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere. Yet, specific leaders and groups of leaders have a large influence over the direction of a country particularly at critical junctures. I am interested in capturing the experiences of leaders, notably national representatives, political party officials, and civil society workers.

At present, there is an absence of a cross-national, comparative survey of Africa’s leaders. My aim is to help create the “Afrobarometer of leaders” called the Leadership Survey of Africa (LSOA). The LSOA would measure thought leaders’ opinions on the most pressing policy and professional concerns across African countries. More information can be found at www.leadersofafrica.org.

Fieldwork & Qualitative Methods

My dissertation project has taken me to Botswana (2013), Côte d’Ivoire (2015), Ethiopia (2015), Kenya (2013, 2014, 2015), Nigeria (2015), South Africa (2013, 2014), Tanzania (2012), and Zimbabwe (2014) and being an election observer with The Carter Center for Kenya’s 2013 general elections. I am interested in how to translate fieldwork experiences into empirical research by creating new and better indicators and employing structured narratives and interview surveys.

Other Research Interests

The culture of international NGOs
The role of civil society in elections
Public opinion and citizen perceptions, Afrobarometer
Public service delivery