Cultural differences and confidence in institutions : comparing Africa and the USA

Falade, Bankole (2018)

CITATION: Falade, B. 2018. Cultural differences and confidence in institutions : comparing Africa and the USA. South African Journal of Science, 114(5/6), Art. #2017-0135, doi:10.17159/sajs.2018/20170135.

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A comparison was undertaken of confidence in 17 institutions in Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and the USA using data from the World Values Survey to find shared valuations and distinguishing characteristics as markers of cultural categories. Frequencies and rankings were examined and exploratory factor analysis was used to find plausible meanings of groups of institutions. The findings show that, although African respondents score institutions higher than their US counterparts, the rankings vary. With frequencies, the meaning is manifest. The analysis shows that 10 institutions load similarly on one latent variable and their combinations with the others indicate culture-specific characteristics. The latent variables were named ‘not-for-profit’, ‘for-profit’, ‘political’, ‘watchdog or fourth estate’ and ‘social order’ and they show Ghana is closer to the USA than to Nigeria, which is closer to Zimbabwe. The ‘not-for-profit’ variable is more important in the USA and Ghana and ‘political’ is more important in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Institutional-specific loadings show that whereas the police and courts are grouped as ‘political’ in Nigeria, in other countries they belong to ‘social order’; and while universities are perceived as ‘for-profit’ in Africa, they are ‘not-for-profit’ in the USA. Comparing frequencies and rankings or dividing along the lines of individualistic versus collective or private and public sectors, masks the dynamic distribution of the systems of meaning in the local cultures; the latent variables approach therefore offers a more conceptually sound categorisation informed by shared and distinguishing institutions.

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