Political parties are a vital element in the quality of representative democracy, facilitating both the participation of citizens in political life and the accountability of elected representatives to those citizens. The restoration of multi-party democracy in Africa since about 1990 has also rendered political parties on the continent crucially important once again. Despite their importance, however, citizens of Africa’s democracies struggle to access information on the parties and candidates in elections. Moreover, scholars currently know relatively little about how political parties in Africa work, with evidence restricted to journalistic accounts, or country-specific scholarly accounts. 

The Political Parties in Africa project aims to improve the quality of information open to citizens and scholars. The project will contribute to the promotion of democracy through developing new online resources, enabling citizens to access more easily information about the political parties in their countries and the candidates standing for election. This will also be an important resource for scholars. The project will contribute to scholarship through the systematic, comparative understanding of the levels and form of organizational development and professionalization of parties.

The Political Parties in Africa project is: 

- Establishing an active network of researchers across Africa, Europe and North America.

This project will bring together scholars from both the global North and global South to extend existing data collection efforts, develop a new research agenda and appropriate research methods, and develop a better understanding of both parties in Africa and (in light of this) variation between parties across the world.

- Strengthening empirical social science research capacity in African institutions.

We will build partnerships amongst centres of excellence across the African continent, strengthening their capacity to train new researchers and support civil society through the provision of high quality research output; as part of this, we will partner with the UCT/ Summer School to provide rigorous training on the theory and study of parties.

- Conducting pilot studies of rigorous and systematic data collection in selected areas of Southern Africa.

This will include data on central and local level party, rules and practices in party decision-making, manifestos and initiate a peer-reviewed working paper series.

- Partnering with existing international data collection efforts and bring Africa into the global conversation.

This includes a collaboration with the cross-national Political Party Database Project.

- Holding workshops on different aspects of political parties.

Our first workshop, on opposition parties in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, was held in April 2018. In December 2018 we will be hosting a Political Parties Conference with a primary focus on party structures in Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Tanzania.

- Co-ordinating with policy makers and civil society to support democracy promotion efforts.

The project is based at the Institute for Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa at the University of Cape Town. The Steering Committee currently comprises Matthias Krönke (UCT), Sarah J. Lockwood (Harvard), Professor Bob Mattes (Strathclyde), and Professor Jeremy Seekings (UCT).

For further information, please visit the PPA website.