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The conventional view holds that most of Africa’s political parties are organizationally weak, with little grassroots presence. 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 focus on one crucial aspect of party organization – the local presence that enables political parties to engage with and mobilize voters – and use Afrobarometer data to develop the Party Presence Index, the first systematic, cross-national measure of local party presence in Africa. We then apply the index to a series of substantive questions, confirming its value and demonstrating its potential to add significantly to our understanding of grassroots party organization.

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