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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action
from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived
document may not work.
APIC: List Survey Report
APIC: List Survey Report
Date distributed (ymd): 990919
This posting contains a summary of the results from the July
1999 survey of the Africa Policy Electronic Distribution
List readers,as well as comparisions with surveys in previous
years. Reports from previous years available on the web
include: http://www.africapolicy.org/survey/report97.htm, and
Results from 1998 were not presented in a separate report, but
are included here where appropriate for comparison.
Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List
Reader Survey Analysis, 1999 Survey
Introductory Note and Summary
Each year in July, for the last four years, we have surveyed
our readers to obtain a picture of who you are and what you
think of this electronic publication. As you can see below,
the results are remarkably consistent from year to year.
According to the responses, 72% of you now live in North
America, 12% of you in Africa, and the rest elsewhere. Over
21% of you were born in Africa. Over 80% were born in, have
worked in or visited the African continent. Three-quarters of
you have advanced degrees.
On average, you rate the documents we post as "very good" or
"good," and read four out of ten carefully. Again, averaging
in those of you who pass on our material to many others and
those who just use it for yourself, each document is passed on
to 3.5 people in addition to the 2600 addresses on the list.
Of those of you living outside the African continent, almost
half say you are actively or somewhat involved with a local
organization working on African issues. Seventy-five percent
say you are an active member or a supporter of a national
organization working on African issues.
Read on for more details.
Survey distribution and response
A 30-question survey was distributed by e-mail on July 5, 1999
to the 2601 addresses on the list as of that date. By
September 15, 1999, 448 completed surveys were received from
respondents on the list, as well as 22 from respondents
receiving the postings indirectly. [Note: in 1996 the survey
was reposted by several listservs which normally repost
distribution list material; in subsequent years this was not
the case, responses for 1997-1999 came almost entirely from
readers receiving the list directly.]
There is no conclusive way of determining if the respondents
are representative of all recipients, including those who did
not respond to the survey. A detailed study of the 1996
survey, however, indicated that respondents are not likely to
differ in major ways from non-respondents on most questions,
with the important exception of how likely they are to
redistribute documents they receive.
The net growth of the number of addresses on the list has been
steady, as shown by Table 1, which shows total number of
addresses on the list by six-month intervals.
Table 1: List Growth
[Note: this and following tables best read in non-proportional
font such as Courier.]
Month End of month total
December 1994 189
June 1995 688
December 1995 865
June 1996 1167
December 1996 1401
June 1997 1569
December 1997 1745
June 1998 2202
December 1998 2344
June 1999 2601
Country of Residence
Table 2: Countries with more than 1% of respondents
[Note: In this and following tables, totals may be less than
470 because of missing responses to particular questions.]
COUNTRY NUMBER PERCENT
USA 309 67.9%
UK 21 4.6%
Canada 19 4.2%
South Africa 14 3.1%
Kenya 8 1.8%
Netherlands 8 1.8%
Australia 7 1.5%
Mozambique 7 1.5%
Denmark 5 1.1%
Zimbabwe 5 1.1%
Other countries 52 11.4%
Total: 455 100%
In 1999 other countries represented among survey respondents
were Angola, Belgium, Bosnia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cote
d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ireland,
Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Norway, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland, Tanzania, Trinidad, Uganda, and Zambia. Countries
represented among respondents in previous year surveys also
included Botswana, Congo (Kinshasa), Croatia, Egypt, Ghana,
Italy, Japan, Lithuania, New Zealand, Peru, Senegal and U.A.E.
This is an incomplete list of countries of recipients, since
a total of at least 24 African countries and 35 non-African
countries can be identified by the domain codes on the e-mail
addresses on the list.
The distribution by country and continent has been fairly
consistent from year to year, with the exception of a modest
decrease in the percentage in North America and increase in
the percentage in Africa.
Table 3: Continent of residence (percent of respondents)
North America Africa Europe Other
1996 76.3% 7.2% 12.9% 3.6%
1997 70.4% 10.9% 15.4% 3.2%
1998 76.7% 9.3% 12.8% 1.3%
1999 72.3% 12.5% 13.2% 2.0%
Respondents resident in Africa were almost evenly divided
between those born in Africa and expatriates from other
continents (for example,in 1999 respondents with mailing
addresses in Africa included 29 born in Africa and 28 not born
Connections with Africa (other than current residence)
The percentage of respondents born in Africa (or with a parent
born in Africa) was 21.1% in 1999, showing insignificant
change from previous year's results: 19.2% in 1996, 21.3% in
1997, 19.8% in 1998. A new question in 1999 showed an
additional 5.1% not born in Africa but having a spouse or inlaw
born in Africa.
Within the USA, an additional 16.3% of respondents not born in
Africa identified themselves as African-American. This is
slightly greater than in previous years, when the question was
worded as "diaspora" rather than the more explanatory
"African-American or other African diaspora community." In
all, of those respondents resident in the USA, 30% were either
born in Africa or African-American.
Including respondents who have worked in Africa or visited
the continent, as well as those born there, the percentage of
respondents rises to 80.6% (84.3% in 1998, 82.8% in 1997 and
77.5% in 1996). It is clear that most readers of the
distribution list have multiple connections with the continent
and a high level of interest.
Other Demographic Characteristics
Of respondents returning the survey in 1999, 44% were female,
no significant difference from the 43% in 1998, but an
increase over the 1996 (33%) and 1997 (37%) percentages.
The largest age group in 1999, as in previous years, was from
36 to 50 (41% of respondents). Of the remainder, half were 35
and under, and half were over 50. In 1999, as in previous
years, three-fourths of the respondents said they had advanced
degrees, while most of the rest had undergraduate college
Institutional sectors represented were also very similar to
previous years, with 43% reporting primary affiliation with an
educational institution, 21% primary affiliation with a
secular non-governmental organization, followed by religious
institutions (12%), government (8%), business (7%), other (6%)
and media (3%).
In 1999, 32% of respondents resident outside Africa said they
were actively involved in a local organization working on
African issues, while an additional 17% said they were
"somewhat" involved. The comparable percentages in 1998, the
first year the question was asked, were 31% and 15%.
In 1999, 33% of respondents resident outside Africa said
they were active members of a national organization working on
African issues, while an additional 42% said they were
"supporters" of such an organization. To the nearest
percentage point, the results were exactly the same in 1998.
The percentage of respondents saying they had access to the
web rose modestly from 85% in 1996 to 93% in 1999. A similar
pattern applied to respondents living in Africa (from 77% in
1996 to 88% in 1999).
A new question asked in 1998 and 1999 revealed that even those
who have web access have a clear preference for receiving
information by e-mail rather than through the web. In each
year over 75% of those who said they had access to the web
reported visiting the Africa Policy web site never or less
than once a month.
Opinions about Documents
In 1999 respondents on average rated the quality of documents
as between "good" and "very good," as in previous years. The
percent saying documents were generally "very good" rose from
45% in 1996 to 55% in 1999.
In 1999, 90% of respondents agreed the frequency of documents
was "about right," little changed from the 88% and 89%
recorded in previous surveys. The dissenters were split
between those wanting less frequent documents and those
A smaller, but still substantial, majority of 79% agreed that
the length of documents was "about right" (81% agreed in 1997
and 1998, 76% in 1996). Among the other 21%, most wanted
How respondents used documents was also very consistent from
year to year. Out of every 10 documents, on average
respondents discarded 1.5, skimmed four, read four carefully,
archived four, and used one (1996) to 1.5 (1999) in teaching
or public education. The average number redistributing
documents and the number they sent them to has increased for
each year of the survey. On average, each document reached
2.1 additional people for each respondent in 1996, 2.5
additional people in 1997, 2.7 additional people in 1998 and
3.5 additional people in 1999.
More detailed studies of the 1996 and 1997 surveys showed that
those who responded to the survey quickly were more likely
(than those who responded slowly) to redistribute documents
(and, by hypothesis, those who do not return the survey are
even less likely to redistribute documents). In some cases,
however, the redistribution process goes even further, with
indirect recipients in turn passing it on to others. The use
of the multiplier in the previous paragraph, while crude,
therefore makes it possible to calculate a rough estimate of
the growth of the number of readers of an average document on
This would give estimates of total readership as approximately
3,600 for June 1996, 5,500 for June 1997, 8,150 for June 1998,
and 11,700 for June 1999.
As in previous years, the generally positive impression given
by survey answers was confirmed by the additional comments
volunteered by some respondents. Most of the 140 comments
received were variations on "good job," "good work," and
The most common request for improvement was for "more"
material on different topics, on countries or regions we are
weak on (such as most of the Francophone countries). For those
of you who made such requests, we will try to be responsive.
However, in order to do so, we need your help, and that of
your fellow readers.
The selection of postings is determined in part by our
judgement of the importance of different issues. For example,
recently we have given priority to documents on HIV/AIDS and
other issues in African health, on debt, trade and development
strategy, and on conflict and peace efforts in crisis areas in
different parts of the continent. We are always seeking
relevant documents that are sensitive to the importance of
gender. We try to focus on topical issues with wide relevance
around the continent, and on issues for which the need for
response by the "international community" is being debated.
Our selection is also limited, of course, by your overwhelming
consensus that the frequency and length of documents is now
"about right." Increasing the frequency or length of postings
is therefore not an option. For those who do want more, we do
our best to refer you to other sources with more frequent
This still leaves us quite a bit of room for improvement, in
terms of a better and more varied selection. But another
fundamental constraint is the pool from which we draw. While
some of you say you rely on us for news, we are not a news
organization, and we have no staff or offices outside
Washington. We do search out documents to repost as we are
able, but for the most part we rely on those that are sent to
us or called to our attention. Like many of you, we do not
have much free time to "surf the web." If a document is not
sent to us, it may well escape our attention.
So please help us fill our gaps. We seek critical, analytical
policy or policy advocacy documents in the public domain in
electronic form. We are, of course, particularly interested in
increasing the proportion of documents coming directly from
If we receive material on a relevant topic that:
(1) has already been published or distributed by an
organization, and is thus available for "reposting,"
(2) is in the public domain, or authorized for redistribution by the
author/originating organization (we do not distribute
copyrighted material without permission),
(3) is from a reputable source, to which we can refer people
for further information (we must have organizational contact
information to supply our readers so that they can contact the
(4)is relatively short (a text file less than 20K, or less
than 2500 words; preferably shorter),
(5) is readable, including general background for those who
are not specialists in the particular issue or country (some
documents we receive assume that readers already know the
background, and thus are not appropriate for our list),
(6) is timely (i.e., within the last few months),
(7) is already in electronic format, so that we don't have to
retype or scan it, and
(8) is sent to us as a text file or as a reference to an
accessible web location, NOT as an attached document which we
have to convert,
then the chances of the document showing up through our list
are significantly increased. In cases where we do not receive
such information, or have it called to our attention,
important issues or countries are less likely to show up among
our reposted documents.
If you already provide documents that are on occasion reposted
by us, consider shortening your documents slightly. That will
enable us to satisfy those among our readers who want shorter
documents without investing the extra time to abridge or
excerpt what you send us.
We welcome for our information documents in French or
Portuguese as well as in English. However, the likelihood of
reposting depends on allocating staff time for translation,
which we are able to do only in exceptional circumstances.
We cannot, of course, guarantee to repost all documents sent
to us. The wider the pool, however, the greater the chances
for further improving the range and quality of documents on
the list. We also try when possible to give references to
documents which because of length or other constraints we
cannot redistribute through the list. If a document is
available on the Web, we can sometimes work in a reference in
another posting even if we cannot repost the document itself.
In conclusion, we want to extend our appreciation to all of
you who returned the survey. We hope you find the results
Survey report prepared by William Minter, Senior Research
Fellow. Please send comments or inquiries on survey
methodology to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on on-line
resources APIC should be aware of or suggestions for reposting
should be sent to email@example.com.
This material is produced and distributed by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary
objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States
around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by
providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis
usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.