DP12233 One Team, One Nation: Football, Ethnic Identity, and Conflict in Africa

Author(s): Emilio Depetris-Chauvín, Ruben Durante
Publication Date: August 2017
Date Revised: September 2017
Keyword(s): Africa, Ethnic Conflict, Ethnic identity, Football, Nationalism, Trust
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12233

Do collective experiences that prime sentiments of national unity reduce interethnic tensions and conflict? We examine this question by looking at the impact of national football teams’ victories in sub-Saharan Africa. Combining individual survey data with information on official matches played between 2000 and 2015, we find that individuals interviewed in the days after a victory of their country’s national team are less likely to report a strong sense of ethnic identity and more likely to trust people of other ethnicities than those interviewed just before. The effect is sizable and robust and is not explained by generic euphoria or optimism. Crucially, national victories do not only affect attitudes but also reduce violence. Indeed, using plausibly exogenous variation from close qualifications to the Africa Cup of Nations, we find that countries that (barely) qualified experience significantly less conflict in the following six months than countries that (barely) did not. Our findings indicate that, even where ethnic cleavages have deep historical roots, patriotic shocks can reduce inter-ethnic tensions and have a tangible impact on conflict.