WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The lasting effects of the Arab Spring continue to be felt across the Arab world more than three years after the wave of protests and conflicts first spread across the region. But while the ensuing unrest in North Africa led to regime change in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt, it did not spread south of the Sahara. In 2013, seven in 10 (70%) residents in 26 sub-Saharan African countries Gallup surveyed say they had not followed recent political developments in the Arab world "closely at all," while 6% say they had followed them "very closely" and 17% say "somewhat closely."
Though scattered Arab Spring-inspired protests did briefly materialize in a few African countries, they had little effect. More consequential was the further destabilization of Mali and the Sahel region caused by the overthrow of longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Heavily armed Tuareg rebels allied with Gadhafi in Libya returned to Mali after his regime collapsed, seizing large parts of the country alongside al-Qaeda fighters in a conflict that led to French military intervention.
Populations in Sahel region countries that are geographically closer to North Africa are among the most likely to say they followed Arab political developments. Almost half of Burkina Faso residents (45%) respond this way, as do more than 30% in five other Sahel countries: Mauritania (36%), Senegal (32%), Mali (32%), Niger (31%), and Chad (31%).
Among Africans who have followed events at least somewhat closely, nearly half (46%) say political developments in the Arab world have had more of a negative effect on their own country, compared with 26% who say its effects have been more positive, and 21% who say that events have had neither a positive nor a negative effect. Altogether, residents in 18 out of 25 African countries surveyed are more likely to say the developments have been more negative than positive. In a handful of countries, more than two-thirds say political developments in the Arab world have had a more negative effect on their own country. These include Guinea (72%), Sierra Leone (71%), Uganda (69%), Mali (69%), Malawi (69%), and Niger (68%).
In early 2011, it was not difficult to imagine that Arab protesters' early calls for "bread, freedom, and social justice" could resonate with their African neighbors to the south, where deficits in good governance and employment also run deep. At the height of events in North Africa, attempts at Arab Spring-style demonstrations briefly brought protesters into the streets of Gabon, Uganda, and the Ivory Coast, even inspiring an "Occupy Nigeria" movement in response to that government's removal of fuel subsidies in early 2012. Still, these protest movements failed to match the force of their neighbors to the north and quickly fizzled out with little achieved.
Since then, civil war in Syria and the spread of instability in the Sahel region fanned by a Libyan power vacuum have likely dampened Africans' views of the Arab Spring. Meanwhile, the continent's predominantly rural populations and still-developing telecommunications infrastructure make a regionwide protest movement such as the Arab Spring less likely in Africa.
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Results are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in each country, aged 15 and older, conducted throughout 2013. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error ranged from ±3.4 percentage points to ±4.0 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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