From The African Weeks in Review publications, below is a list of infographics that explain the complex happenings on the continent:
Grouping of Trans/International Organizations
Part of the raison d’entre for public diplomats is the creation and distribution of memes. Most of us know memes as the cat pictures with big bold text on them discussing their need for cheeseburgers. But the pre-internet definition of a meme went like this:
an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to bepassed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, esp.imitation.
This is a critical piece of the public diplomats’ toolkit because their tasks are to disseminate ideas and values that represent their nations, employers, or clients. This is not an easy task, and it is made all the more difficult by the difficulty of measuring the success or failure of memes. How well do people associate Nike with great athletics? How well do people in Africa associate democracy and civil rights with the United States? Does China’s articulation of a ‘peaceful rise’ achieve the geo-strategic goals in their foreign policy?
These answers are a bit ephemeral because of the shifting perceptions, and are often only analyzed in retrospect, or when the public can subconsciously agree as a ‘whole’ that a certain meme is associated with a certain brand, country, or person.
Recently, there have been many newspapers (The Economist), magazines (Time), and writers who have hailed the ‘Rise of Africa’ in the past decade. These analyses often look at the massive growth rates in GDP that African countries have sustained and they see hope for the future, especially when contrasted with the stagnant or non-existent growth in North American or Europe. This meme has been credited with increasing the focus on Sub-Saharan Africa both in the business community as well within the foreign policy community.
This ‘Africa Rising’ theme was challenged in a recent Foreign Policy article (The Myth of Africa’s Rise), that has stayed in FP’s Most Popular list for over a week after its publication (it is currently ranked 6th). I’ve had it bred into me at USC to always research the author of any piece I read, and that habit revealed an interesting piece of info: it’s written by an author (Rick Rowden) who it appears has rejected the Washington Consensus on economic development (see his book on the Deadly Ideas of Neoliberalism) but is not an economist, not an Africanist, not a political scientist, and not a public diplomat, which may account for the frame of his thesis:
The measures of development (GDP, consumption, and trade) are wrong.
It is a claim that goes against 50 years of development work, and may in fact be a needed critique to development studies. However, Rowden doesn’t go down the path of most who attack GDP and other monetary based measures do. He could have explored the Better Life Index, the Green GDP, or simply argued that GDP and its like can’t possibly ascertain Africa’s geo-political position and whether the continent has grown more powerful in international relations. No, Rowden instead says that industrialization is the primary way to measure growth. And his rationale? Because all the other countries who grew first (the West),first industrialized in their development stages. This cross temporal comparison is shocking, because it basically makes the argument that there is only one way to growth a national economy! Which contradicts his argument against the use of neo-liberal economic markers (GDP per capita, consumption, and trade) to measure growth!
For the sake of Rowden, let’s take his rhetorial frame as not so ludercrious, and operationalize his ideas about growth. Continue reading