DARU Research Projects

African Legislatures Project

Visit the African Legislatures Project website.

The African Legislatures Project is a collaborative project between the CSSR and the Center for Legislative Studies at Bridgewater State University in the United States.

The purpose of ALP is both simple and grand-to learn everything there is to know about how African ligislatures function. As such, ALP is an exercise that straddles the realms of academic research and practice - in this case, research into the operations of the legislature and what its findings suggest for African parliaments, organisations working in legislative and democratic reform and supportive donor agencies. ALP seeks to answer three basic questions:

  • How and why do African legislatures function as they do? Why are some African legislatures developing into significant institutions that play a measurable role in democratic governance while others do not?
  • What conditions and changes are required to develop and transform African legislatures into institutions that will sustain Africa's fragile democracies?
  • What constitutes "best practice" for the purpose of strengthening African institutions which are an essential component of democratisation on the continent?

To answer these questions, ALP will develop a range of quantitative and qualitative measures of legislative performance so that scholars and practitioners will have a method for assessing and comparing the development of individual legislatures in relation to one another and over time.

To achieve its purpose, we have already identified more than 400 items (variables) that explain the development and performance of legislatures, and in turn, their contribution to the broader processes of democratization and poverty reduction. ALP will collect data about these items in the 43 sub-Saharan African countries where a legislature of some form currently exists, with a special focus in 20 identified countries where the prospects for democratization and democratic consolidation are high or promising (Benin, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe). The variables about which we seek information can be grouped into seven broad clusters.

  1. National Background: conditions external to the legislature that shape the nature and operation of the political system generally and the legislature specifically. 
  2. National Political Institutions: the formal powers of the executive and legislature, executive-legislative relations, and the type of electoral system. 
  3. Formal Rules and Organizational Structure of Legislatures: the internal structure and procedures of the legislature that govern the selection of presiding officers, the structure of the committee system, control over internal finances, and the complement of staff. 
  4. Financial Resources: MP salaries, size and expertise of legislative staff and physical infrastructure like office space, committee rooms and computers.  
  5. Political Dynamics: competitiveness of elections, party systems, party discipline, balance of power between ruling and opposition parties, and leadership style. 
  6. Individual Attributes of MPs: the norms, skills and preferences that individual legislators bring to their jobs including educational, professional and experiential background. 
  7. Public Opinion: the values, expectations, preferences and evaluations of the electorate that shape may shape the behavior of legislators.

Finally, we will measure the actual performance of the legislature through the three basic functions that are common to all democratic legislatures - making laws (the extent to which the legislature participates in the making of public policy by initiating or amending laws), overseeing the executive (the extent to which they oversee the implementation of the national budget and ensure financial accountability of public funds), and representation (the extent of civil society input into the legislative process, and the degree to which MPs represent and serve their constituents). Furthermore, across these three functions, we focus on legislative performance on poverty reduction, gender and public health, especially HIV/AIDS.

Afrobarometer

The Afrobarometer is an independent, nonpartisan research project that measures the social, political, and economic atmosphere in Africa. Afrobarometer surveys are conducted in more than a dozen African countries and are repeated on a regular cycle. Because the instrument asks a standard set of questions, countries can be systematically compared. Trends in public attitudes are tracked over time. Results are shared with decision makers, policy advocates, civic educators, journalists, researchers, donors and investors, as well as average Africans who wish to become more informed and active citizens.

Open Society Monitoring Index (OSMI)

The OSMI is a longitudinal research instrument developed by DARU in collaboration with the Open Society Foundation for South Africa. The index is designed to gauge the level of openness in South Africa. Openness in a society refers to the free flow of information, inclusive, accountable and responsive government institutions and the existence of the rule of law

The OSMI consists of three primary dimensions and nine sub-dimensions:

  1. The Free Flow of Information
    a. Public Access to Information
    b. Government Provision of Information
    c. Free and Independent News Media
  2. Accountable and Responsive Government Institutions
    a. Free and Fair Elections
    b. Public Participation in Legislative Processes
    c. Executive Accountability to Parliament
  3. Adherence to the Rule of Law
    a. Judicial Independence
    b. Prosecutorial Independence
    c. Police Conduct

The index was constructed using a two-stage process.  During the first stage, the most comprehensive, accurate and current data on each of the dimensions was used to compile an empirically grounded narrative that described (1) the constitutional and legal framework comprising that dimension; (2) the institutional mechanisms and processes designed to achieve its goals, (3) the performance and efficacy of these mechanisms and processes and (4) data gaps that existed with respect to each dimension.

During the second stage of the process, the narrative was circulated to a broad panel of 25 experts, who were invited to score the index accompanying the narrative. Using a 10 point scale, where “0” indicates “not at all” or “never”, and “10” indicates “completely” or “all the time, respondents evaluated the following components of openness for each sub-dimension:

  1. The strength of the formal institutional and legislative framework that promotes a specific dimension of openness 
  2. The accessibility of institutions and legal mechanism promoting a specific dimensions of openness  
  3. The extent to which these institutions and mechanisms are utilised by intended beneficiaries
  4. The sufficiency of the resources allocated to these institutions and mechanisms
  5. The extent to which the institutions and mechanisms can ensure meaningful compliance with the legal framework from which they derive their authority
  6. The overall effectiveness of formal mechanisms and institutions
  7. The degree of government commitment, or political will, to upholding and strengthening a specific dimension of openness