Africa After Mandela Survey: High-Level Optimism

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Africans are more optimistic about the future than when Mandela came to power, they have a high level of patience with their leaders and their No. 1 fear is corruption, according to respondents in a CNN survey.

CNN polled 20,000 people in 20 African countries including South Africa via smartphones, PCs and web-enabled feature phones in an attempt to gauge the mood of Africans about their future and Mandela’s legacy.

In a word cloud, the phrases used most in the thousands of replies to describe Mandela were: hero, great man, father, freedom and leader.

Survey results suggest a positive outlook, perhaps surprisingly high levels of patience with African leaders, and immense respect for Mandela as a leader, not just for South Africa but all of Africa. The survey was weighted towards South Africa with 4,871 respondents, but gave insight to other countries in a continent where Mandela had a huge impact, CNN reports.

Two-thirds of respondents said they feel more confident about the future than when Mandela came to power.

Given a choice of five options, respondents listed corruption as the greatest challenge facing their country, followed by the gap between rich and poor, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and war coming last.

Are you more or less optimistic about your own and your family’s future now than … when Mandela came to power in South Africa?

Continent-wide, 64 percent said they were more optimistic and 12 percent, less optimistic. South Africa responded as 65 percent more optimistic. In Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with the second-highest number of respondents, 64 percent expressed greater optimism. Ivory Coast respondents were the most optimistic with 91 percent but the sample was insignificant, CNN reported. Rwanda had the highest percentage of “less optimistic,” (27 percent) but a majority were optimistic.

How well have your country’s current generation of African leaders lived up to Mandela’s vision?

Continent-wide, less than a quarter said their leaders had performed well but 52 percent said their leaders were doing their best. The remainder checked the “badly” box. In South Africa, where President Jacob Zuma was booed at Mandela’s memorial service this week, 55 percent said the leaders were “doing their best,” with 20 percent saying their leaders had done badly and 24 percent saying they’d done well.

Which group in South Africa has most embraced Mandela’s message of reconciliation?

Nearly 60 percent of South African respondents said all races had equally embraced the aim of reconciliation.

What is the greatest challenge in your country in the post-Mandela era?

Of the total Africa sample, 37 percent said corruption was the greatest challenge; 23 percent identified the gap between rich and poor as the greatest challenge; and 16 said HIV/AIDS was the greatest fear. Of South African respondents, 27 percent rated corruption as the biggest concern and 23 percent, the wealth gap. In Nigeria by contrast, 57 percent rated corruption their greatest concern.

Mobile gives mass coverage

The Africa After Mandela survey for CNN International polled countries including Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The survey used mobile market research methods developed by Jana Mobile, Inc. Jana grew out of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology health project in Kenya where blood supply data around the country was delivered by mobile phones in return for small payments of airtime. Jana now offers market research over mobile networks around the world. Respondents in the CNN survey received a small payment of mobile airtime in return for answering five multiple-choice questions and two open-ended ones.

More than 75 percent of respondents were between ages 15 and 25. Thirteen percent were age 26 to 30, and 10 percent were older than 30. Across Africa as a whole, 40 percent of the population is under age 14 and 56 percent is between 15 and 64, according to data from the African Economic Outlook. In South Africa, 30 percent are under 14.

“Mass research by mobile is an emerging method which challenges traditional polling by its sheer scale, made possible by the growth of the Internet and mass adoption of mobile phones in even the poorest communities,” said CNN International Digital General Manager, Peter Bale. “It gives us an opportunity to add the views of thousands of people to the reporting we do.”

Survey respondents were active users of Jana’s rewards platform, mCent, and may not be representative of the overall population, CNN reported.