AD362: ‘All in this together’: Africans tolerant on ethnic, religious, national, but not sexual differences

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Brian Howard

“We’re all in this together” is a mantra of the COVID-19 crisis as leaders and activists argue for global and all-of-society responses to the pandemic (e.g. World Health Organization, 2020; African Union, 2020). At the same time, public fears have highlighted social fissures through acts of intolerance and violence against Chinese people, citizens of Asian descent in many countries, and even Africans in China (e.g. DW, 2020; Guy, 2020; Kandil, 2020; Al Jazeera, 2020).

If a pandemic “drives home the essential interconnectedness of our human family,” as UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said (United Nations, 2020), it may also stress-test the social fabric of our societies and democracies.

How “together” are African societies? Afrobarometer data collected in 2016/2018 suggest that Africans have a strong foundation of tolerance toward other ethnicities, religions, and nationalities on which to build in overcoming the pandemic and working toward the “just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world” envisioned by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, 2015). Cabo Verde, Namibia, and São Tomé and Príncipe stand out as particularly tolerant countries in Africa.

But tolerance toward people of different sexual identity or orientation remains remarkably weak, even among younger respondents, despite some progress in certain countries. Minorities still experience discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, gender, or disability, and majorities in some countries report that the government treats their ethnic group unfairly.