The man who helped make ordinary Africans’ voices heard


The man who helped make ordinary Africans’ voices heard

Gyimah-Boadi’s Afrobarometer has worked to energise civil society and make the case for better government

David Pilling

The first time you read about a life well lived is often in the obituary pages. Here is the story of an exceptional person still very much alive.

Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, who retired this month as head of Afrobarometer, made the voices of ordinary Africans heard. Before 1999, when he helped found Afrobarometer, which conducts polling in 36 African nations, no-one had bothered much to ask what people thought about issues from democracy to indoor plumbing. “Very little was known about what ordinary Africans felt about any part of their lives,” he says.

He was nervous that people with a pressing need to earn a living might resent spending 90 minutes answering questions. “Contrary to our fears, people loved being interviewed and it became problematic for the interviewer to extricate themselves,” he says. “They had a lot on their minds.”..

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