Albertus Schoeman

I have a Bachelors of Political Science and a BA(Hons) in International Relations from the University of Pretoria in South Africa where I graduated first in my class with the Politika Award for the best political science student and graduated from my honours degree as the only student to obtain a distinction. While completing my honours degree, I started working at the Institute for Security Studies, one of Africa’s top think tanks, where we worked with international institutions like the European Union, INTERPOL, United Nations subsidiaries and various governments in Europe and Africa.

For around two years, my work focused on researching violent extremism and counter-terrorism in Africa where I conducted and published original peer-reviewed research and advised various governments, particularly in East Africa, on how to successfully combat violent extremism. I also advised various foreign governments and donors on how to maximise their impact and effectively intervene in conflict situations in Africa.

While I enjoyed my research and could see its impact, I became somewhat disillusioned as I persistently saw how the failure of governments to create inclusive societies brought about conflict and political violence. While conventional counter-terrorism policy has focused on security issues in terms of military responses, I came to realise that in many cases the causes of political violence were often deeply systemic governance issues that were being left unaddressed. Often these were related to a democratic deficit or poorly constructed political institutions that lacked effective mechanisms of accountability. I realised that these were problems that could ultimately only be solved through developing political institutions.

I decided to further my studies with a MA specialising in governance and political development at the University of Nottingham where I obtained my degree with distinction under the supervision of Dr Fernando Casal Bértoa. Having started my education in a non-Western context, I have always been interested by comparative politics and how concepts such as democracy translate to contexts outside of developed Western polities. For this reason, most of my work has focused on comparative democratic consolidation in developing countries. Currently, I am researching the institutional development of party systems and democracy in South Asia at the University of Sussex where my PhD is funded by the university's prestigious Chancellor’s International Research Scholarship. Under the supervision of Dr Rekha Diwakar and Prof Paul Webb, my research looks at how political parties in South Asia use their access to state resources to maintain party organisations through patronage and clientelism.