MIASA Hosts International Conference on Parliaments and Democracy in Africa


The Maria Sibylla Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA) has hosted an international conference on Parliaments and Democracy in Africa.

The conference brought together leading scholars, practitioners and policy-makers to discuss new research on parliaments and democracy in Africa.

The two-day conference held on December 12 and 13 at the University of Ghana, showcased the work of MIASA’s second Interdisciplinary Fellowship Group (IFG) and was attended by participants from various countries including Ghana, Sierra Leone, Togo, Nigeria, Germany, the United Kingdom, the USA and Australia.

In a series of panels, IFG Fellows presented the work completed during their time at MIASA. This included exciting new research on four key topics: the role of candidate selection in shaping legislatures; interactions between parliamentarians and local government; the influence of institutional design on parliaments’ contribution to democracy; and, the formation of power networks within and between parliaments. During these panels, participants reflected on the challenges facing parliaments across Africa and the manner in which these institutions shape prospects for democratization.

One highlight of the conference was the keynote address delivered by Dr Edalina Rodrigues Sanches of the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, an emerging leader among scholars of African parliaments. In her keynote address, Dr Sanches challenged the prevailing perception of African legislatures as being mere ‘rubber stamps.’ She argued that although many African parliaments are relatively weak, there is also a huge amount of variation across the continent. As such, Africa’s parliaments cannot be ignored: they have become institutions that matter and which are worthy of the attention of scholars of African politics.

Participants in the conference also enjoyed some heated and informative debates during two policy-practice roundtables. During these roundtables, speakers from leading organizations such as ABANTU for Development, ActionAid Ghana, Odekro, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, shared their thoughts on how research can help policy-makers and practitioners to tackle two ‘hot-topics’ in Ghana: the increasing monetization of politics, and the under-representation of women and youth in politics.

The lively discussions at the conference will inform the work of MIASA’s IFG Fellows as they finalise their research in a series of working papers, which MIASA will publish in 2020. All of MIASA’s working papers, as well as details of future MIASA activities, can be found on the MIASA website: https://www.ug.edu.gh/mias-africa/