The purpose of ALP is both simple and grand - to learn everything important there is to know about how African legislatures 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, organizations working in legislative and democratic reform and supportive donor agencies. ALP seeks to answer three basic questions:
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 18 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.
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.
Data for the variables just reviewed will be collected through four different modules of work.
In Module 1, we collect data about national background and national political institutions in all sub-Saharan African countries with functioning legislatures, based on publicly available sources such as national constitutions and parliamentary Standing Orders.
Module 2 collects data about formal rules and organizational structure of legislatures, financial and other resources, and political dynamics as well as legislative performance. We will do this through in-country research by national research associates consisting of key informant interviews and observation of parliamentary proceedings in approximately 18 legislatures.
Module 3 collects data about the individual attributes of MPs through interviews with a representative sample of members in each country using a structured questionnaire in the same 18 countries.
Module 4 collects data about public opinion about legislators and legislatures. We will do this, first, by utilizing existing data about citizen attitudes collected in 18 countries by past Afrobarometer surveys. Furthermore, we plan to place a specially designed set of question items on the next Round of the Afrobarometer which will be conducted in all 18 of our identified countries.
ALP is relevant to African parliaments, organizations implementing legislative and democratic reform projects, and supportive donor agencies for three reasons.
First, the development of the legislature into a viable institution that performs the three basic functions associated with legislatures worldwide is essential to the development and consolidation of democracy. As demonstrated by recent research: no viable legislature, no consolidated democracy!
Second, we will fill a void by providing useful measures of the overall performance of individual legislatures. Comparison of these indicators across legislatures and/or over time will contribute to a broad-based understanding of the factors that drive the development of legislatures.
Third, this information is vital to enable donors and implementers to raise the quality and impact of their legislative strengthening programs in emerging democracies in Africa. The lessons drawn from these data will provide a deeper understanding of why some legislatures develop and others do not and a complete "toolkit" to design programs in particular countries. ALP will also help improve and systematize monitoring and evaluation components of parliamentary reform projects to understand better which interventions work and are most cost effective and which are not.
Initial preparatory work has begun at the University of Cape Town (UCT) with funding from the Harry Oppenheimer Institute, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the National Research Foundation of South Africa.
Beginning in January 2008, we will begin in-country research with two grants, one from the UK's Department for International Development and the other from the Higher Education, Research and Expertise Network in Africa, which is supported by the US Partnership for Higher Education in Africa. With this funding, we will complete research in all four modules for four countries (Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia) during the first quarter of the year. We plan to complete research for the remaining 14 countries by mid-2009. We are also willing to work in additional countries, such as the post-conflict countries, e.g., Sierra Leone and Liberia.
ALP is based at the University of Cape Town in collaboration with the Center for Legislative Studies at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, USA. ALP's "home" at the University of Cape Town is the Democracy in Africa Research Unit (DARU) in the Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR).
Both DARU and CSSR are directed by Professor Robert Mattes, one of three principal investigators for the project. The other two principal investigators are Professor Shaheen Mozaffar, Department of Political Science at Bridgewater State University and Professor Joel D. Barkan, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Iowa. Kimberly Smiddy, Research Officer at DARU, is the Project Manager for ALP and is supported by a number of post graduate research assistants.
Last Modified: April 29, 2011