Indian Soft Power in Africa

I was recently asked to rate the world power’s amount of soft power around the world. The choices were between China, the EU, the United States, and India. Coming from the perspective as an African specialist, I drew this conclusion that caught some of my colleagues by surprise:

It is the country of India that has the highest potential for soft power deployment in emerging markets, specifically in Africa for the following reasons:

  • Democracy: With Indian being a model for democracy in developing countries, this gives India the advantage over China in South-South relations. Being able to leverage the democratic ideals (or at least the desire to seem democratic by their constituents) professed by the leaders of emerging markets, India is able to gain in the public opinion in the the target countries. An African leader seeking to increase their perception of leading a representative and transparent government would be better pairing with India rather than China. Additionally, India has watched and tried to keep pace with China in securing resource and raw-material deals with Africa, but has lacked behind the far more ruthless Chinese. This has tainted public opinion of China’s motives especially when they are seen to be supporting despots such as Mugabe, dos Santos, and Bashir. India can follow in behind and appear as a more honest broker
  • Diaspora: Two of the largest Indian diasporas exist on the continent in Durban and Nairobi. This has led to great familiarity with Indian culture in South Africa and Kenya. These two countries possess significant resources in minerals wealth and intellectual capital. This relationship between African and Indian businesses and politics thus has a long history in two of the most significant business hubs on the continent. Thus compares to the views of white westerners as colonialists/imperialists and of the Chinese as the new imperialists. Indian values and culture already have a base of diffusion on the continent, which will spread naturally, a significant advantage over China.

India & Africa (From The Economist)

This contrasts with some of news stories that show that India is trying to match China with developmental resource-backed loans. However, the ability to relate to one another culturally will be more important in the long term success of engagement with the continent than how big of a loan you can offer.

Here are some noteworthy India in Africa news stories of late:

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The Year of the South African World Cup

This year has been one of fantastic adventures and difficult challenges. Alisa and I began the year in Washington DC having started entry level jobs at the most innovative technology company on the planet, but with no real plan for the future other than to save up and return to Africa, where hopefully we would find employment. When the email came from FIFA on the 5th of February notifiying me that I had won tickets to all the matches I had submitted for during the random drawing, it gave me what I thought would be new purpose to life. I finally had confirmed tickets to return to the country I had fallen in love with only 3 years earlier. It would finally give me a reason to book my plane tickets and set off, hoping that Alisa would tag along for the World Cup part even though she sought to find a ‘real’ job in Washington DC. The year took on new meaning when just seven days later, I received another email accepting me into the African Studies Program at the University of Califorinia – Los Angeles.

I had lost hope of getting into graduate school when I saw my GRE scores flash on the screen the previous December. I thought I had blown my money on apps and the test as well as the chance to improve my chances for ‘real’ employment in the near future. So when UCLA sent the confirmation email of my acceptance, I was relived and surprised that I had got in. That surprise grew when just a few weeks later I learned that the Masters of Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California had also extended it’s acceptance letter to me. Suddenly I had a reason to return to the United States after the World Cup, and I set out to convince Alisa to embark on this journey of a lifetime. Continue reading

Kenya Photos 2010

Hello Everyone,

I’m back in California! Incase you didn’t know I made it back safely from Kenya about a month ago. Just in time to spend my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, with my family.

Upon my return I packed up my boxes in DC and moved to Los Angeles where I am working on grad school applications and waiting to find out where my next adventure  will be.

It has taken me a few weeks to get all my photos and movies together (at least 3,000), but now they are finally posted to my MobileMe Gallery, so PLEASE check them out!!

The pictures only begin to share all the wonderful experiences I had so if  you have any other thoughts, questions, or comments let me know. I enjoy talking about all of it.

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Alisa becomes a Role Model and Fist Bump Promoter

The school parent meeting was on Friday, so for several days everyone was preparing for the parents arrival. For me that meant listening to several hours of poem presentations and succeeding in getting them to say greaT instead of greaS.

I was looking forward to meeting my students parents, seeing the 7th graders be promoted to 8th, and watching the student entertainment, but the meeting didn’t go quiet as I expected. The  entertainment was enjoyable and I was very proud of the students who performed, but most parents didn’t come and many of those who came left early. The result- several lonely and homesick children.

The parents I did have the privilege of being introduced were very friendly and truly interested in how their children were progressing in English.They also wanted to insure that I felt welcomed in Kenya and Continue reading