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Inequalities and the Erosion of Social Cohesion in South Africa

South Africa is struggling with the challenge of building a nation where its citizens are bound by a sense of common purpose and belonging. Various opinion surveys indicate that South African society might have begun to move toward greater cohesion during the first decade of the post-Apartheid dispensation, but thereafter the momentum seems to have given way to the assertion of social divisions, not just by race but also by ethnicity, class, gender, and other identities. Social differentiations sharpened, with the widening of inequality both between and within identity groups. Consequently, historically intense social discontent appears to have heightened, which in turn may have hindered economic growth and contributed to entrenching poverty and aggravating already pervasive joblessness. Nigeria and many other countries in the continent are confronted with similar challenges. This seminar explores the interplay between inequalities and the erosion of social cohesion, addressing its implications for the economy, and discusses prospects for forging a more cohesive society in South Africa and, more broadly, in sub-Saharan Africa.