For more than two decades, Afrobarometer (AB), a pan-African survey research network, has provided a platform for hundreds of thousands of ordinary Africans from 39 countries to share their views, experiences, evaluations, and aspirations with governments, policy and development actors, academics, media, businesses and investors, and the broader international community. AB findings represent the views of more than 70% of all Africans.
AB envisions a world in which Africa’s development is based on a deeper understanding of the realities and preferences of its people; where governments, policy makers, thought leaders, funders, business leaders, and activists anchor their work in reliable and timely data on what African citizens really need and care about; and where citizens know that their voices count and claim their stake in the making of policies that affect their lives.
Given persistent data deserts across the continent, AB data and the analytical insights they generate fill a critical gap. The only survey organisation operated by, for, and with Africans, AB is the leading source for public attitude data on issues affecting men, women, and children across the continent. As an Africa-based and African-led enterprise, AB has helped to decolonise the study of African societies, cultures, and economies.
From a pioneering 12-country survey project in 1999, Afrobarometer has built a continental research network whose 325,000+ interviews in 200+ surveys provide a two-decade data set freely available as a public good. As AB continues to train the next generation of African researchers and data users, hundreds of publications and briefings generating thousands of media reports each year inform policy processes across Africa. At the heart of AB’s achievement is making public opinion a cornerstone of democracy and development debates on the continent.
A resource for international development partners and policy makers
AB’s independent, high-quality, and timely data are an indispensable resource routinely used by a wide range of stakeholders in the international policy, development, diplomatic, and business communities for policy planning and advocacy as well as strategy and program development, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
By capturing the authentic voices of African citizens, AB data help users to identify shared interests and values, pinpoint infrastructure and material development gaps, design evidence-based strategies and programs, and track the effectiveness of interventions. Used in these ways, AB data enable development partners, Africa policy actors, and other institutions to build durable alliances with the people of Africa and, through them, with their governments.
AB data are also a valuable resource for advancing democratic development in Africa. Democracy and governance are AB’s signature topics, and every survey round since 1999 has included a set of core questions on these issues. These indicators allow AB to track trends
in popular demand for and perceived supply of democracy and good governance based on the perspectives and experiences of ordinary citizens, which can be especially useful for identifying early warning signals of risks such as democratic backsliding, increasing corruption, political instability, and social disorder. At a time of democratic retreat in many countries, AB offers a beacon with its consistent finding that most Africans want democracy.
AB surveys also capture information on asset ownership and the use of technology that is valuable for a wide array of users, including businesses and investors operating on the continent.
Data uptake and impact
AB findings are impacting African economies and societies in a number of critical ways, including:
- Making African economic and social development policy processes (policy making, policy implementation, monitoring and evaluation) more evidence-based
- Creating a basis for democratising Africa’s economic and social development policy processes by reflecting the voices, preferences, and perspectives of ordinary citizens
- Identifying the scope of challenges such as climate change and corruption, and giving governments the evidence they need to identify and address problems
- Quantifying gender disparities in education, access to technology, asset ownership, decision-making power, and other gaps that must be overcome to advance Africa’s development
Plans for Afrobarometer’s third decade
As AB enters its third decade, it will continue to provide high-quality data and analysis that reflect the preferences and perspectives of ordinary Africans while pursuing ambitious new goals, including:
- Expanding country coverage so that our work represents an ever-larger share of the continent’s population
- Diversifying our toolkit to include both traditional AB face-to-face surveys and rapid- response phone surveys and other emerging tools
- Reaching new audiences and promoting greater uptake of AB data and findings among policy actors by developing new outreach tools, new outlets to share findings, and new data and communications partnerships at the local, national, continental, and global levels
- Strengthening promotion of democracy, good governance and anti-corruption, human rights, and rule of law by broadening and deepening our tracking and analysis on these topics and by building strategic partnerships with stakeholders and like-minded organisations
- Nurturing the next generation of African researchers, analysts, and communication experts through expanded capacity building and mentoring programs, especially among women and youth
- Harnessing resources from a more diverse array of funders and supporters who share our vision and can enable AB’s long-term sustainability, especially by making multi- year contributions to our programs
To fully and efficiently execute this agenda and continue to provide this essential public good to international and Africa policy actors and businesses, AB needs the security of long- term, flexible funding. Guaranteed funding over a five- to 10-year horizon would enable AB to attract and keep top talent, be more innovative in our approaches, build greater efficiency into the survey value chain, and ensure that its data and analytic insights are timely, relevant, and of the highest quality.