Building Nations Through Shared Experiences: Evidence from African Football

Authors: Ruben Durante

American Economic Review, Vol. 110, No 5, 1572-1602, May, 2020

We examine whether shared collective experiences help build a national identity, by looking at the impact of national football teams’ victories in sub-Saharan Africa. We find that individuals surveyed in the days after an important victory of their country’s national team are 37% less likely to identify primarily with their ethnic group, and 30% more likely to trust other ethnicities, than those interviewed just before. Crucially, national team achievements also reduce violence: countries that (barely) qualified to the Africa Cup of Nations experience less civil conflict (9% fewer episodes) in the following months than countries that (barely) did not.