Cultural differences and confidence in institutions: Comparing Africa and the USA
Keywords:cross-cultural studies, cultural metrics, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Ghana, factor analysis
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.
- Nigerians, as at the time of the survey, were yet to perceive the principles of separation of powers between political institutions, the judiciary and the police – an essential feature of a good democracy and a characteristic of other countries in the study. Zimbabweans and Nigerians perceive their public institutions in generally the same way with the domination of the political establishments while Ghanaians are closer to the USA in terms of the values they attach to their establishments with the most important group being the charities. The universities in Africa, as well as the civil service in Nigeria, are associated with business/ profit centres with the Nigerian labour movement also seen as political. The army also remains relevant as a part of the fourth estate in Ghana and Nigeria.
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