Why Afrobarometer should be taken seriously
ADVISION Lesotho yesterday released the results of Round 6 of the Afrobarometer Lesotho National Survey, which highlight Basotho’s views on critical political issues in their own country.
The Lesotho Times ( LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, spoke to Advision Project Manager, Libuseng Malephane, about the survey and its significance to Lesotho.
LT: Could you please explain to us what this Afrobarometer survey is all about?
Malephane: Afrobarometer is an independent and non-partisan research project which measures the social, political and economic atmosphere in Africa.
It is a comparative series of public attitude surveys, covering up to 35 African countries.
It measures public attitudes on democracy and its alternatives, evaluations of the quality of governance and economic performance.
Additional survey topics include elections, micro-economics and markets, poverty, conflict and crime, public-participation and national identity.
In addition, the survey assesses the views of the electorate on critical political issues in the surveyed countries. The Afrobarometer also provides comparisons over time, as five rounds of the surveys have been held from 1999 to 2012. We are releasing results for Round 6 for 2014-2015. The surveys are repeated on a regular cycle.
Trends in public attitudes are tracked over time, and 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.
Malephane: Advision Lesotho is a consulting company contracted by Afrobarometer to conduct the study in Lesotho. In other words, Afrobarometer’s work in Lesotho is coordinated by Advision Lesotho.
Fieldwork for Round 6 was conducted in Lesotho from 3 May 2014 to 30 May 2014. The survey interviewed 1200 adult Basotho.
LT: And what is Advision Lesotho? What is its relationship with Afrobarometer?
LT: What is the importance of these surveys? Malephane: Like I said, the results of these surveys are disseminated to decision-makers, policymakers, civic educators, the media, researchers, investors and ordinary citizens.
The main objective of these surveys is to present public views on issues concerning how they are governed, democracy and its alternatives and the economic performance of the country.
The surveys are a good platform for the people to reflect their views to those in authority.
The results are used by groups of people I mentioned above to make policies, to make reports, to make changes in governance, to implement new strategies and so on, in line with the public’s views.
The ultimate goal is for the decision-makers to make consultative decisions.
LT: How do you conduct the surveys?
As I said, the Round 6 survey in Lesotho was conducted by interviewing 1200 adult Basotho. By adult we mean people aged 18 years and above. The study was conducted throughout the country this way: We have what we call Enumeration Areas, or EAS, which we identify in all the 10 districts of Lesotho.
Each EA’S area of survey is determined by the density of the population.
For instance, in urban areas, we have villages with a high density population which means an urban-based EA could be relatively smaller than another EA in the rural areas where villages with a small populace are scattered.
However, what is standard is that we selected eight households from each EA for our interviews.
We only interview one member who is 18 years or above from each of the eight households. We also make sure that from the eight interviewees we met in each of the EAS, four of them are males and another four should be females. This is for purposes of a gender sensitive and balanced survey outcome.
LT: What are the questions you ask people, if you could mention but a few?
Malephane: We ask very simple and straightforward questions. We do not use the word ‘why’ in our questionnaires. Examples of the questions include: Do you think democracy, the way it is being practiced in Lesotho, is the best the type of governance the country should adopt?
And the answer would just be no or yes. Other examples include: In general, how do you rate your living conditions compared to those of other Basotho?
How do you rate economic conditions in this country compared to twelve months ago?
How free are you in this country? There are many ways to govern a country, would you approve or disapprove of the following? What, if anything, does democracy mean to you?
Which of the following statements is closest to your opinion? Overall, how satisfied are you with the way democracy works in Lesotho?
You see the Round 6 survey came at the right time when it was obvious to everyone that Lesotho was going through political turmoil. So the report will reflect how Basotho feel about the way they are being governed or whether they embrace the style of democracy that we have, or not.
LT: Besides Advision Lesotho and Afrobarometer, which are the other partners in this project?
Malephane: For the success of this project since its establishment in 2000, we work together with the following partners: University of Cape Town (UCT) and Michigan University in USA, which assist by providing expertise for the project.
We also have, as funders, the World Bank, US Aid and others. The UCT also helps in the capacity building of our officials who conduct the research.
This survey is of much national importance that, if well disseminated and considered by those in power to bring change, Lesotho could become a much better place than it is now.
Advision Project Manager Libuseng Malephane.