The conventional view of Africa’s political parties holds that they are organizationally weak, with little presence at the grass roots. Yet, few studies are based on systematically collected data about more than a handful of parties or countries at any given point. In this paper, we attempt to remedy this situation, by focusing on one crucial aspect of party organization – the local presence that enables political parties to engage with and mobilize voters during and between elections – and developing the first systematic, survey-based measure of the extent of this presence across 35 countries. We draw on a wide variety of data to demonstrate the validity and reliability of this new index, and in the process showcase its ability to be calculated at a number of different levels. Finally, we illustrate its utility by applying it to a key substantive question in the literature.
- political parties
- party organization