IIAG use of Afrobarometer data: A testimonial and a challenge

30 Sep 2016
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  Brian Howard is publications manager and acting operations manager for communications for Afrobarometer. Email: bhoward@afrobarometer.org

For the Afrobarometer network, these days of uncertainty about funding to continue our work have been difficult, but also instructive and gratifying. While most potential funding sources remain non-committal, evidence has been pouring in that our efforts to give voice to ordinary Africans are valued throughout the continent as well as in western countries. A sampling from the past few weeks includes an open letter from seven former high-ranking State Department officials urging that donors save this “major success story of democratic and developmental institution building,” along with eloquent pleas by Ambassador Johnnie Carson and Africa specialist Nic Cheeseman, not to mention hundreds of supportive tweets on social media.

The latest testimonial comes from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, whose 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) draws on Afrobarometer findings for its first-ever use of public attitude survey data. The index (to be released Oct. 3) uses Afrobarometer data for 18 of its 166 measures spread across all four categories of the index (safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, human development).

According to the IIAG, Afrobarometer is “the world’s leading research project on issues that affect African citizens,” and our data “provides a key insight into citizens’ perceptions of how effectively the government is providing them with goods and services. … [T]he data also reveals interesting trends, particularly in governance dimensions that the IIAG has not previously been able to measure: [fear of] crime in the home and neighbourhood, the quality of basic health services and income inequality.”

To be used by the IIAG, data must cover at least 33 of Africa’s 54 countries and provide at least two years’ worth of data since 2000. Afrobarometer data met these criteria with its Round 5 and Round 6 surveys (together covering 37 countries, including 34 countries in both rounds).

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation was an Afrobarometer core donor for Rounds 5 and 6. Its $2.5 million support represents the foundation’s largest financial commitment to a data project.

Like the IIAG, the Economist Intelligence Unit, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, and other prestigious entities use Afrobarometer data to produce regional and global governance indicators. Transparency International partners with Afrobarometer to produce the Africa data for its Global Corruption Barometer. Scores of government agencies, civil-society activists, media outlets, and academics across Africa and around the world rely on Afrobarometer data.

This faith in the validity of our methods and results can only help us as we work to secure the funding we need to consolidate and expand our survey and capacity-building work. The National Endowment for Democracy recently became the first donor to officially commit to supporting Rounds 7 and 8, and others are sure to follow its lead.

Meanwhile, as we launch our Round 7 surveys into an uncertain future, we continue our all-out efforts to meet the challenge that recognition by the IIAG and so many others implies: To remain the world’s premier source of reliable data on what Africans are thinking.