Race & class fears amplified as COVID-19 hit Kenya and South Africa

It’s common in both Kenya and South Africa for there to be everyday conversations about inequalities in power relations and between “races”, classes and ethnic groups. Kenya, in East Africa, and South Africa, in southern Africa, share a history of British colonial divisions. In both countries, social movements and protest have sought to address these social injustices – like #FeesMustFall, #MenAreTrash, #SabaSabaMarchForOurLives, #OccupyParliamentKE.

Socio-economic and political divides were further exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the responses of the Kenyan and South African governments. As countries went into lockdowns, citizens used social media platforms to voice their concerns.

During the first weeks of COVID-19 cases reported in Kenya and South Africa, there were hundreds of thousands of tweets posted by distressed citizens. Our study of these tweets was undertaken in order to see what kind of conversations were happening – and if they reinforced postcolonial social inequalities in the countries.

Over 129,541 tweets were collected from Kenya and 237,528 from South Africa between 5 March and 31 March 2020 using Twitter Archiving Google Sheet (TAGS). The tweets, from ordinary citizens, were then grouped into themes and the major themes were used to produce a research report.


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