Building Nations Through Shared Experiences: Evidence from African Football

64 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2017 Last revised: 4 Jun 2018

Date Written: August 2017


We examine whether shared collective experiences can help build a national identity, 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 identify with their ethnic group than with the country as a whole 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, we find that national victories not only affect attitudes but also reduce violence: using plausibly exogenous variation from close qualifications to the African 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 when divisions are deeply rooted, shared experiences can work as an effective nation-building tool, bridge cleavages, and have a tangible effect on violence.

Keywords: Africa, conflict, Ethnic identity, Football, Nation-building, Trust

Suggested Citation

Depetris-Chauvín, Emilio and Durante, Ruben, Building Nations Through Shared Experiences: Evidence from African Football (August 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12233. Available at SSRN:

Emilio Depetris-Chauvín (Contact Author)

Pontifical Catholic University of Chile ( email )

Av Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins 340
Santiago, Región Metropolitana 8331150

Ruben Durante

Sciences Po ( email )

28 rue des Saints-Peres
Paris, 75011
+33145497264 (Phone)


Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics