Poll of 8 African Nations

June 16, 2004


Africans have a very favorable view of globalization, including foreign companies coming into their countries, and have a positive view of the influence of the United States. At the same time they feel they are not being treated fairly by rich countries in trade negotiations. Strong majorities endorse democracy, while feeling frustrated about the level of corruption in their countries. AIDS is clearly rated as their most serious problem.

These are some of the findings of a new poll of 7,556 Africans in eight African countries’ the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and to a more limited extent, Egypt. The poll was conducted December 2003 through January 2004 by the international polling firm GlobeScan (formerly Environics International) and analyzed in conjunction with the Program on International Policy Attitudes of the University of Maryland. The study was sponsored by the World Bank and the Royal African Society.

Two out of three Africans have a positive view of the effect of globalization on their lives. In all countries this is a strong majority, reaching as high as 82 percent in Ghana and 79 percent in Kenya. Support is more muted in Tanzania (53%), and Zimbabwe is the one country where only a minority (35%) feels this way. Based on the previously released GlobeScan 19 nation poll (www.pipa.org) Africa is the region of the world most positive about globalization.

A majority of Africans in all demographic categories are positive toward globalization, with views being especially positive among those with higher education and higher income, and younger people.

Positive views of globalization were also more common among those who see things going in a positive direction in their lives, their country and the world; and who see US influence as something positive. This suggests that those who are optimistic have pinned their hopes on the potential for integration with the world economy.

Consistent with their support for globalization Africans have a positive view of global corporations. A very large majority (73%) favors large foreign countries coming into their country and setting up operations there. This is true of nearly all countries, ranging from seven in 10 in South Africa to nine in 10 in the Ivory Coast and Ghana. The one outlier is Tanzania, which is divided. Fifty-six percent said they trust global corporations operating in their country to act in the best interests of the country.

Rich Countries Perceived as Not Playing Fair in Trade
While they show considerable enthusiasm for globalization, strong majorities of Africans (60% overall) believe that rich countries are not playing fair in trade negotiations with poor countries. Such views range from being very widespread in the Ivory Coast (88%) and Zimbabwe (72%), to being divided in Nigeria and South Africa. A clear majority (57% overall) also rejects the idea that poor countries benefit from trade as much as rich countries.

Those who feel that rich countries are not playing fair are less apt to support globalization. But even among those who have a positive view of globalization, six in 10 feel that rich countries are not playing fair.

Those who have a more negative view of how poor countries are being treated also tend to have a less positive view of the influence of the US and the EU and have less trust of global corporations. However, they are not less supportive of corporations setting up operations in their country.

Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments, “These findings suggest that Africans are eager and willing to join the game of world economic integration even as they have resentments that they are being treated unfairly by the wealthy countries.”

Interestingly, dissatisfaction with the trading policies of rich countries is more common at the highest levels of income and education. Though these groups arguably are benefiting more from globalization, they may also be more aware of actions of rich countries that could be regarded as unfair.

Views of US and Europe
A majority of Africans (55%) say the US has a positive influence in the world. Countries differ significantly, with clear majorities in Ghana, Kenya, the Ivory Coast, and Nigeria taking a positive view, while other nations have more mixed views. Based on GlobeScan’s 19 nation global poll, Africans stand out as the only region, other than North America, where a majority has a positive view of the influence of the US (see www.pipa.org).

While, among Africans, a clear majority of Christians has a positive view of Americans, Muslims are more divided. Those with very high incomes actually lean toward a negative view of the US.

A plurality (49%) said Europe is having a positive influence in the world. A large majority of those in Ghana have this view, as do majorities in Kenya and South Africa. Only in Zimbabwe does a slight majority express a negative view.

Perhaps most interesting, views of Europe are very positively correlated with positive views of the US. Africans do not appear to be making a distinction between Europe and the US.

Support for Democracy
An overwhelming majority (83% overall) agree with the statement “Democracy may have its problems, but it is the best system of government for my country.” This majority was at least eight in 10 for every country except Tanzania, where it was 54 percent. While one might assume that the privileged classes would be the most resistant to democracy, in fact support is especially strong at high income levels.

However, a majority (56% overall) do not perceive their country as being run by the will of the people. Large majorities feel this way in Nigeria (85%) and Zimbabwe (73%). Only in Ghana does a clear majority (61%) affirm their government as representative, while Kenya and the Ivory Coast are divided on the question. It should be noted, though, that the public in many wealthy democracies are not confident that their governments are representative either.

Frustration With Corruption
Overall, only four in 10 say that corruption has diminished in their country over the last year, but nations vary widely. A strong majority in Zimbabwe (especially), Nigeria, South Africa, and the Ivory Coast say that corruption has not improved, while only in Kenya and Ghana do a majority say it has improved.

One in four Africans overall say that they or someone in their family has been personally affected by an act of corruption by government officials in the past 12 months. This ranges from one in 10 in South Africa and Ghana, to four in 10 in the Ivory Coast and five in 10 in Zimbabwe.

The experience of being affected by government corruption is strikingly homogeneous across all demographic groups, as is the perception that the situation is not getting better.

Perceptions of corruption are very highly correlated with respondents’ perceptions that their life is improving, that their country is going in the right direction, and that the US is having a positive influence.

HIV/AIDS Seen as Biggest Problem
An overwhelming majority of Africans (92%) see HIV/AIDS as the most serious problem in their country–outranking poverty, jobs, and terrorism. Only in Nigeria and South Africa is HIV/AIDS not ranked as the most serious problem.

A strong majority of Africans (75%) think that solving health problems in Africa is the shared responsibility of all governments, and 82 percent think that “Rich countries have a moral responsibility to ensure that poor countries receive affordable drugs for serious diseases.”

Lloyd Hetherington, Executive Vice President of GlobeScan comments, “Clearly Africans are looking to the developed world to support them in their struggle against HIV/AIDS.”


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