Cuba’s Soft Power

Cuba is a Caribbean island which has been under American commercial, economic and financial embargo since 1958.

The American sanctions have made life difficult for average Cubans, although the embargo was aimed at isolating Cuba’s government from the rest of the world which was hoped would lead to the collapse of the Castro regime.


However, Cuba’s communist government made many friends throughout Latin America and is respected by much of the world for its role in international humanitarian aid, particularly in the medical area

Cuba has recently been acting as a mediator to end some of Latin America’s longest wars such as the Columbian conflict between the FARC and the Colombian government which has lasted for decades and caused the deaths of thousands of people.

At the end of 2016, the Columbian government and the Farc rebels have signed a peace deal, Cuba has taken an important role to end the conflict and has offered scholarship opportunities for over a thousand Columbians to study in Cuba’s world leading medical institution “Cuba has offered Colombia 1,000 medical school scholarships to support a peace accord in which the South American country’s largest rebel army will relinquish its weapons, officials announced on Thursday” (Associated Press, 2017)


For decades Cuba has sent its doctors to corners of the world, to who treat people for free, there are more than “51,000 Cuban doctors around the world” the bulk of them are in developing nations who are in dire need of medical aid as they do not have enough doctors to take care of the health needs of their population. (The Huffington Post)

On the other hand some argue that Cuba’s aim is not about humanitarianism but a way to get hard cash since the island nation faces a shortage of cash as a result of the American embargo “The goal is to earn hard currency and advance other financial goals of the regime while gaining influence, prestige, legitimacy, and sympathy abroad” (World Affairs Journal, 2013)

Former president of the United States Barrack Obama has taken steps to restore relations between the two nations before he left power, this was welcomed by much of the international community.


In conclusion whether Cuba exports its doctors to get political leverage and financial gains or not, the Cuban doctors have had profound positive impact on many patients throughout the developing nations, people who would not have been able to get operations such as eye surgeries for the partially blinded, that have successfully restored the vision of many patients throughout Africa and Asia. This free generosity by the Cuban government has undoubtedly made the US embargo on Cuba very unpopular with other states.




Associated Press (2017) Cuba offers Colombia 1,000 medical school scholarships

The Huffington Post    Cuba’s Soft Power: Exporting Doctors Rather Than Revolution

World Affairs Journal (2013) Cuba’s Health-Care Diplomacy: The Business of Humanitarianism


President Trumps effective media communication strategy

Post 9/11 mainstream media has been filled with fear mongering about “the other”. Part of this was not the fault of the news channels as we have seen the setbacks and challenges that have come with globalisation and the increase of terrorist activities throughout the world.


However it is undeniable fact that the corporate media’s such as Fox News have targeted immigrants and minorities (often misleading the public and exaggerating issues such as terrorism) and focusing specifically on the Muslim faith and Muslim extremist groups while at the same time giving less or no platform to the figures in that community who represent the vast majority of Muslims that abhor terrorism and extremism that are done in the name of their faith.

After indulging years of misinformation regarding Muslims and immigrants in general, much of the American electorates have gone further to the right and in the right moment, candidate Trump seized the opportunity to portray himself as the voice of the alt-right, giving hope to the steelworker whose job will in reality never return and the disillusioned voter who is tired of old politics.

GG-terror_v5(Greenwald, 2015, The Intercept)

In reality, positive messages or messages that are based on the notion that, we should do good don’t get as much attention as messages of fear and division, after all, fear sells. Therefore the millions of Americans who have been taught to be scared of the “other” for decades have finally found a candidate who says publically what they had in mind.

“The truth is that in politics as in everyday life, the message that we should do good is often less powerful a motivator of human action and behavior than the message that we should avoid harm” (Campbell-Rodriques, 2017, The New Times)

Evaluating Trumps win through the old ways such as scheduling and polling is just lazy and wrong. Trump won because he had a better communication strategy than the rest of the GOP candidates and Hillary, especially his use of social medias such as twitter has helped him immensely, by tweeting things that normal politicians simply would not, has made him seem like an ordinary person who speaks out their thoughts rather than a politician who filter their statements.


when it comes to social media all candidates were involved but what put Donald trump above others was his unconventional techniques, he was able to get far more responses from social; media users as shown by the above research done by The Pew Research Centre in 2016.

According to a 2016 survey by GALLUP showed that American public’s trust of the media has dropped to an all-time low

media tust

Furthermore, the public’s trust of mainstream media has substantially diminished in recent years with “nearly 42 percent” of the public not bothering to watch political ads (something the Clinton campaign spent heavily on) therefore Trumps often outrageous and continued statements made much of the public to pay more attention to his twitter account directly. (Khan, 2016, the Hill)

Donald Trump exploited his already established brand identity and celebrity name to “attract attention”, something the Clinton campaign did not have. The Clinton name is a powerful brand but not as appealing, many people disliked political decisions Hillary and President Clinton have made over their long political careers, while trump, on the other hand, was associated with entertainment. (Rivero, 2016, the Washington Post)

Although on the surface the mainstream media and trump do not have good relationship, Trump is a rating Phenom for the media because he is so unpredictable that he can for a minute talk sensible and the next refuse to shake hands with the German chancellor, and this unpredictability, gives the media ratings boost as ordinary Americans are suddenly interested in what the president is up to. (Sillito, 2016, BBC)

Throughout the campaign trump spent less than half of the $200 million Clinton spent on TV ads, instead the trump campaign spent much of their time and money on social media mainly on Facebook which has generated them over $250 million in online fundraising. According to Brad Parscale digital director for the trump campaign, Facebook and twitter were the main reason they won the election, that “twitter for Mr. Trump and Facebook for fundraising” (Lapowsky, 2016, WIRED)

Furthermore, Trump still got over $2 billion worth of free TV as television networks broadcasted his campaign speeches thoroughly.

To conclude Trump’s unconventional ways of communication has clearly resonated with his supporters won him the presidency and has changed conventional communication methods between American politicians and the public forever.





Campbell-Rodriques, Natalie (2017) Strategic Communication: lessons from President Trump – The New Times Rwanda

Greenwald, Glenn (2015) The Greatest Obstacle to Anti-Muslim fearmongering and Bigotry: Reality – The Intercept

Khan, Laeeq (2016) Trump won thanks to social media – The Hill

Lapowsky, Issie. (2016) Here’s How Facebook Actually Won Trump the Presidency – WIRED

Pew Research Centre (2016)

Rivero, Cristina. (2016) How marketing helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election – The Washington Post

Sillito, David. (2016) Donald Trump: How the media created the president – BBC News

Swift, Art (2016) Americas’ trust in Mass Media Sinks to new Low – GALLUP

An expensive shot on public diplomacy

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, proved to be the most expensive ever, exceeding the 50 billion dollar mark(Müller, 2015). The whole bill was paid by taxpayers(Peck, 2015). Much has been discussed, if it was Russia’s plan to improve its public diplomacy, or, was it President Vladimir Putin’s event of bolstering his power.

Russia’s way of doing public diplomacy, influencing the opinions of public, rather than the government, is one that differs substantially from other states (Curtis, 2017). The Olympic Games, is the biggest sporting event in the world, and gives the hosting country a chance, to show its culture and values. The Olympic Games of Sochi, feels, in retrospect, like it has added very low-value, to Russia’s public diplomacy.

Firstly, preceding the Games, Russia introduced a controversial law on LGBT community, which banned any legal rights for the community to hold any kind of rallies in the country (Walker, 2014). Even Sochi mayor said before the event, that homosexuality didn’t exist in Sochi, and there was no gay people in the city (BBC, 2014). So, the games already started off with an issue over human rights. Three days after the Games, Russia invaded Crimea, in Ukraine, and left the people thinking if the Olympics were just used as a smoke cover for all these actions. Putin had also attacked Georgia, during 2008 Beijing Olympics, which clearly shows, that Putin has used Olympic Games, as a chance to go through with his provocative policies.


Also, when thinking of Russia’s aim to influence foreign public, we need to think of the doping scandals over Russian athletes. Sport has always been kept in high esteem in Russia, and its athletes winning medals has been Russia’s way of showing their soft power. But, in recent years they have been involved in a massive doping scandal that was funded by the Russian state (Standish, 2016). After coming fourth in the medal table in London, and first in Sochi, significant number of Russian athletes have been caught with doping. The former sports minister, Vitali Mutko, now Putin’s deputy Prime Minister, denied any involvement, and a week after the Sochi Games, he got praised by Putin, who thanked him for his significant contributions to Russia’s athletic achievements (Standish, 2016). This scandal led to Russian track and field team being banned from Rio de Janeiro Olympics. A state-sponsored doping system, to win medals, no matter what, does not look as good public diplomacy, and has worsened people’s belief around the world over Russia’s governance.

Russia similarly gained the right to host 2018 football World Cup in a very controversial manner. Mutko, was the organiser for the bid, which engulfed into a huge corruption probe. Namely, Russia has been accused, in getting the right to host the event, due to bribes given to then FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Blatter got suspended over the allegations and later came out saying, that the decision on the host, had been done already before voting (Standish, 2016). Putin and Mutko, though, have claimed, that the state-funded doping and World Cup scandal, have been Western conspiracy theories against Russia (Standish, 2016). Russia sees hosting these events as a chance to show the world their power and capability. Even though its economy is doing terribly in a time when energy prices are low and sanctions from the West are hindering its businesses.

In recent years, we have seen Russia continuing destabilising Ukraine, as well as involving in Syrian civil war. Putin has been mobilising his troops for training and in wars in mentioned countries. Putin’s plans can be hard to predict. Whilst he is bringing these massive sporting events to Russia, he is trying to show the world that they can organise them successfully. From another angle, it is not only the world he likes to prove his power to. It is also the people in Russia, who he wants to show to, that he is the one who brings these massive events to them. There are wide-range corruption problems in Russia, and organising events like Sochi Olympics and the World Cup, will take people’s concentration away from any controversial domestic issues, and keep Putin bolstered on his post. But, 3 years after the Sochi Games, we hardly remember it taking place, not even mentioning it being a successful public diplomacy act. Who should remember, are the taxpayers who covered the huge bill for the event, which has been tainted by a variety of Russia’s actions. Matters have been made even worse, because Sochi today is completely abandoned and excluding couple of events a year, the place looks like a ghost town. As far as Russia’s public diplomacy goes, bring on the World Cup.  economist-putin (1)

The Economist cover this week has a hilariously tragic cover, with President Vladimir Putin as a figure skater who has just dropped his partner — his country — but still preens for the crowd(The Economist, 2014).





1) BBC, published in 2014, „Sochi 2014: no gay people in city, says mayor“, available at (Accessed: 6th of May, 2017)

2) Curtis S., 2017, Public Diplomacy, London

3) The Economist, published in 2014, „The Triumph of Vladimir Putin“, available at (Accessed 6th of May, 2017)

4) Müller M., published in 2015, „After Sochi 2014: Costs and impacts of Russia’s Olympic Games“, available at (Accessed: 6th of May,2017)

5) Peck T., published in 2015, „2022 Winter Olympics: Beijing hot favourite Games despite complete lack of snow“, available at (Accessed: 6th of May, 2017)

6) Standish R., published in 2016, „What Russia’s Ministry of Doping Tells Us About Putin“, available at (Accessed: 6th of May, 2017)

7) Walker S., published in 2014, „Vladimir Putin: gay people at Winter Olympics must ’leave children lone’“, available at (Accessed: 6th of May, 2017)





Diaspora Diplomacy in a Digital Age


image from

The importance of diasporas in public diplomacy is increasingly recognised. Diasporas are ‘natural representatives’ of countries that significantly shape the national image abroad and are ‘living links’ between the host and home states which may play a decisive economic and political role in the relationship between countries(Rana,2013). According to the World Bank 247 million live outside their country of birth and the ‘digital revolution’ as well as cheaper travelling costs enable them to retain close connections with their home land. States can tape their public diplomacy strategy in these transnational networks to ‘influence and inform’ as well as to increase economic interaction with the diaspora as well the foreign state.
This blog briefly examines why and how states engage with diasporas abroad and what impact the the emerge of international communication technologies has had on states and their relationship with diasporas.
Diasporas are communities living abroad while retaining strong connections and remembrances of their country of origin (Rana, 2013:70). However, diasporas are difficult to conceptualise. On the one hand they have left their country of origin for very different reasons and on the other already ‘naturalise’ in the first generation while in other cases there is a strong sentiments of belonging also in the second or third generation(Beine et al., 2009). However it should be reminded that they are not per se political actors and diasporic organizations do not legitimately represent ‘the’ diaspora as whole and thus may be prone to misrepresentations (Ragazzi, 2009).

Rana ( 2013:75) argues that diaspora diplomacy should entail economic, political or cultural elements but ultimately must be seen in its entirety, though warns that political engagement should be approached cautiously, since it might be viewed as an inference in domestic affairs.

Traditional consular services and diplomatic protection play an important role for migrants, but also other institutions such as religious organisations or language classes are usually set up. Diaspora organise themselves and retain connections with their home state also without governmental involvement. These non-govermental diaspora organisations enjoy greater credibility, however lack a coherent message that a government might want to portray abroad. Levitt  (2001) has argued that how individuals determine their belonging depends to a large extend on the degree of ‘institutional opportunities’ that the host state or the diaspora community offers. If the latter is widespread a state may cooperate with these institutions. Vice versa through additional programmes by the home state they may encourage political loyalty and economic interaction (Levitt, 2001).
Culturally, diasporas are natural representatives and through the daily interaction with their host society shape profoundly the national brand abroad. For example the importance of gastrodiplomacy has been stressed several times and relies heavily on migrant communities and chiefs to open up restaurants. Even though its political importance may be disputable, it is evident that food can shape perceptions of a country and that the nation brand, at the very minimum, is a crucial factor for tourism.

The economic potential of diasporas cannot be overestimated. For some states remittances – money sent to the country of origin – is of eminent importance for economic stability. Haiti for example receives 24% , Moldova 23% of its GDP in remittances by its expatiates making up nearly 10 times the direct foreign investment. It is the most direct development aid and over time develops into sustainable trade links beneficial to both states. Moreover, through sustaining transnational networks they open markets which is of in the interest of all states regardless of remittances.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 22.05.08.png

image from (Global Remittances Guide, 2016)

So what does the digital revolution mean for the engagement with diasporas?
Manor has presented two contradictory trends in digital diaspora diplomacy. Due to the growth of diasporas they become more relevant to bilateral relations, however through increased connections with the ‘home’ country the local diaspora community has lost in relevance and consequently is less relevant in bilateral relations (Manor, 2016). However, especially because they sustain deeper transnational networks they have become more relevant actors and for states there are more legal and legitimate ways to engage with these networks.

Overall it can be concluded that diaspora networks offer a wide range of opportunities for states to build on their PD strategies. The digital revolution has opened new channels and platform of interactions and thus made diasporas a key actors and target groups of transnational two-way public diplomacy.


Beine M., Doquier F.&Özden C., (2009), Diasporas, The World Bank Development Research Group, Policy Research Working Paper 4984
Global Remittances Guide (2016) Migration Policy Center available at last accessed: 03.05.2017
Levitt P.(2001) Transnational migration: taking stock and future directions, Global Networks 1, 3
Manor I. (2016) “The Ties that Bind: Front Line Diplomats and Digital Diaspora Diplomacy” Paper presented at the BSIA Workshop on frontline diplomacy, Waterloo available at
Ragazzi F., (2009) The Invention of the Croatian Diaspora: Unpacking the Politics of “Diaspora” During the War in Yugoslavia, Global Migration and Transnational Politics, Working Paper no.10
Rana, K. S., (2013) Diaspora Diplomacy and Public Diplomacy. In R. S. Zaharna,A. Arsenault & A. Fisher (Eds.), Relational, Networked and Collaborative Approaches to Public Diplomacy: The Connective Mindshift (pp. 70–85). Oxon: Routledge.
World Bank,(2016) MIGRATION AND REMITTANCES FACTBOOK THIRD EDITION, available at last accessed 03.05.2017

European Cultural Diplomacy – a Coherent Message of Diversity

“Cultural diplomacy is an integral part of our common foreign policy” said Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (European Commission, 2016b).


Picture from:

In March 2016 the EU has launched the cultural diplomacy platform to enhance the cultural dialogue with citizens abroad. This blog briefly examines the role of cultural diplomacy within the EEAS and argues that while for states a coherent national image is desirable, the EEAS cultural message especially draws from its diversity. Therefore it is in a prime position to foster international cultural relations.

Cultural diplomacy is key to a successful public diplomacy, however distinct in its essence. While PD attempts to ‘influence and inform’ foreign publics in line with the countries foreign policy through a coherent message, the focus within cultural diplomacy rather lies on the provision of platforms to foster international cultural relations (Bound, 2007:19). Through increased cultural relations networks are built that are crucial for successful PD strategies and ultimately foreign policies (Davidson, 2008).

Cultural diplomacy has been described by Senator Fulbright as the ‘most effective weapon’ to win the ‘war of ideas’ (Schneider, 2010:102) and as PD it thrives in a paradiplomatic world, where cities, regions, states and international organisations are involved (Melissen, 2007:10).



Since the Treaty of Lisbon the European External Action Service, with 140 delegations across the world, has significantly increased its capacity and credibility abroad. While the initial phase of the EAAS has been characterised by ‘institutional turf battles’, semantic discussions – do not call them embassies – and uncertainty of who is responsible for what (Petry, 2014). Today, they have manifested themselves as European coordinator and a genuine actor on the international stage. Its role in the negotiators with the Iranian nuclear deal or Somali pirates can been seen as a great success for the EU. With core foreign policy competences, e.g trade and the ability to speak for the biggest economic bloc and 500 people, its voice has considerable weight. Distinct to states the EEAS does not have its own military, while this is often said to be its main weakness, it may also seen as a strength. Multilateral organisations are often seen as more credible than states, and as “quiet superpower” connotations between EU cultural diplomacy and propaganda are less likely (Moravcsik, 2003).

CD is, and arguably has always been a central tool of diplomacy. However, a study shown that the EU itself has enjoyed only limited awareness around the world. Some programmes, such as Creative Europe and Horizon 2020 of the EU have already had previously outreach to countries within the European Neighbourhood Policy and in these countries the EU is seen as a central player.

The main weakness of the involvement in cultural relations is that there is only a weak mandate arising from the treaties in relation to culture.


Picture:(EEAS, 2017)

Member states sponsor cross border cultural programs and run cultural institutes with 914 offices within the EU and 1253 outside the EU (Yolanda:2016:11). While their mandate is mainly to promote national culture and language, in its entirety they represent European diversity, values. The cultural diplomacy platform is an additional way of collaboration and for national institutes that they are under increasing budget constraints pose a new venue for international outreach.

Therefore it is not a new European cultural policy but rather the next step in collaboration between national cultural institutes. The national cultural institutes have diverting regional emphasises therefore collaboration is a cost effective way of advancing their outreach. Other than trade which is an either or competence, we argue that culture is more effective the more levels of governance are involved. The new cultural diplomacy platform is thus not only a way to improve the EU image abroad but for European States to promote their national culture, within a common but diverse framework.


Bound K. et al. (2007) “Cultural Diplomacy”, Demos.

DAVIDSON M. (2008) – “CULTURAL RELATIONS: BUILDING NETWORKS TO FACE TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY CHALLENGES” in Engagement – Public Diplomacy in a Globalised World, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

European Commission (2016a) “JOINT COMMUNICATION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL: Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations” accessibly at  last accessed 2.5.17

European Commission (2016b) “New European Cultural Diplomacy Platform launched” available at last accessed 2.5.17

EEAS (2015) “EU Delegations and Offices around the World” available at last accessed 2.5.17

Isar J. (2014) “‘CULTURE IN EU EXTERNAL RELATIONS’ Engaging the World: Towards Global Cultural Citizenship” Report for the European Commission available at: last accessed 2.5.17

Melissen J. (2005)The New Public Diplomacy: Between Theory and Practice. In: Melissen J. (eds.) The New Public Diplomacy Soft Power in International Relations. Basingstoke, UK: Palsgrave Macmillan, pp. 3-23

Moravcsik A. (2003) How Europe can win without an army. Financial Times. April 2 2003 [online] available at: yFT&cid=1048313410630&p=1012571727126. last accessed: May 25 2017

Petry S. (2012) From Commission Delegations to EU Embassies: External Perceptions of EU Diplomacy. In: Mahncke D. and Gstoehl S. (eds.) European Union Diplomacy: Coherency, Unity and Effectiveness with a foreword by Herman Van Rompuy. Switzerland: Peter Lang AG, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften pp. 215-238

Public Policy and Management Institute (2015) ANALYSIS OF THE PERCEPTION OF THE EU AND EU‘S POLICIES ABROAD. available at  last accessed 2.5.17

Yolanda, S., Daubeuf, C. and Kern, P. (2016) RESEARCH FOR CULT COMMITTEE – EUROPEAN CULTURAL INSTITUTES ABROAD. [online] Available at:  last accessed 9 Mar. 2017.

“Cultural diplomacy is an integral part of our common foreign policy” said Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.







Japan meets Brazil: A culinary encounter

Rockower describes gastrodiplomacy as an “act of winning hearts and minds through stomachs”, something that “introduces culture through the sense of taste” (Rockower 2012:235). As Curtis summarises, it can be perceived, then, as “a form of cultural diplomacy and nation branding” (Curtis, 2017).

The birth and growth of Brazilian sushi can be regarded as just that. The website of a Brazilian sushi restaurant in Rome provides an useful brief historical background: “The biggest Japanese community outside of Japan began forming in Brazil in the early 1900s, that’s how the 日系ブラジル人 culinary tradition was born” (Sambamaki).

The encounter between the Japanese expat community and the local Brazilian culinary tradition created a rich cultural exchange that eventually prospered and mushroomed overseas introducing the world to another vibrant aspect of Brazilian culture, which prides itself for being the result of the meeting of the most diverse cultures. Restaurants can be found as far away as in Italy, the UK and the US (Sushisamba).

Sambamaki, the restaurant in Rome attempts to explain the result of such culinary encounter: “Maki becomes bigger, they contain new ingredients such as mango, avocado and papaya, sushi is served with tasty sauces, sake becomes the base for cocktails as it meets maracujá and other tropical fruits” (Sambamaki). Other changes include the creation of fried “hot” sushi and dessert-like sweet sushi with ingredients such as strawberries or banana and chocolate.


The cultivation of the art of sushi making by Japanese-expat Brazilians is recognised. A remarkable prove of that is the Japanese-Brazilian chef Celso Hideji Amano winning, last year, the sushi world championship in Tokyo in a competition with 27 chefs from France, the US etc. (G1, Presse, 2016).

However, it would be misleading to consider the Brazilian sushi culinary tradition as merely the importation of a Japanese tradition with the addition of a Brazilian taste. It would, rather, make more sense to see it as an independent Brazilian cultural tradition based on the culinary expression of its big Japanese expat community that eventually took on a life of its own. A funny remind of that comes from the following video of a (non-Brazilian) Japanese trying Brazilian sushi for the first time (Youtube).

He seems not to have particularly enjoyed the experience and, in the best cases, remarks that “this is good but it’s very different”.

Brazilian sushi, can therefore, be considered to have produced some results as a gastrodiplomacy tool: It has certainly at least began to introduce the world to a different aspect of Brazilian culture stressing the idea of a rich culture based on the meeting of several cultures, as Brazil is proud to claim. The opening of several Brazilian restaurants dedicated to such tradition can be regarded as an evidence of it. On the other hand, the recognition of its differences with the Japanese culinary tradition, expressed by Japanese people themselves, prove the birth of a distinct cultural phenomenon, based on a Japanese tradition but not limited in replicating it within a different culinary environment.



Rockower P. (2012), Recipes for Gastrodiplomacy, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy.

Curtis S. (2017), Gastrodiplomacy, London.

Sambamaki, available at

Sushisamba, available at

G1, Presse F. (2016), Chefe Brasileiro Vence Mundial de Sushi em Tóquio, available at

Youtube, Japonês do Japão Prova Rodizio Japonês do Brasil, available at

Public Diplomacy: Do African states know what it is?

Listening to western academics discussing how valuable public diplomacy is and how their governments invest millions in this practice, one wonders if their former colonies in Africa know what this is all about. Do African states practice public diplomacy or they are just recepients of the practice from powerful nations? Are the objectives and benefits of the practice understood by all or some states in the developing world of Africa?  In any case do African states have the capacity to as well as craftness to exercise public diplomacy and a story to tell to each other let alone those powerful nations beyond Africa’s territorial borders.Image result for African continent images

It is important to clarify that Africa is not a country but a continent which is nearly thrice as big as Europe, before exploring the subject topic of Africa and public diplomacy. The continent is often divided into two, Sub-Saharan Africa region occupied predominantly by Black people and the MENA region which is mainly resident to people of Arabic origins. That said, this discussion will focus mainly on Sub- Saharan Africa, with brief allusion to the MENA region of the continent. The analsyis for time and space will not cover all countries in the region but will identify a few which are opined to be leading Sub-Saharan African states such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal and a few others.

Defining what public diplomacy is would be a starting point before analysing the behaviours and actions by African states which fit into the known and accepted definition(s) of public diplomacy. Sharp’s definition of public diplomacy cited by Melissen 2005:11 as the ‘process by which direct relations with people in a country are pursued to advance the interests and extend the values or beliefs of those represented’, may sound plausible when analysing actions done by Africans residing in foreign lands as we shall see below. Hans Tuch, quoted by Melissen has a definition which puts emphasis on a ‘government’s process of communicating with foreign publics in an attempt to bring about understanding for its nation’s thoughts and ideals……….’. Whereas this definition may ring true among powerful nations such as Russia, China, the US and European states, it may not necessarily  be so with African states, some of which are struggling even with the ‘traditional’ form of diplomacy. It does appear that there is ignorance, lack of appreciation or of resources to engage in public diplomacy for countries whose economic and political existence is largely based on the benevolence of powerful states. These are states whose union the African Union’s budget is 70% foreign funded by non members, primarily the US, World Bank, China, European Commission even Turkey ( Within their ranks the major donors, South Africa and Nigeria are going through a challenging economic period, it is difficult to see them sustaining their financial support of the AU. But that is a digression.

Sharp in Melissen’s (2005:106) description of public diplomacy being an advancement of interests and extent of values………captures how a country like Ethiopia practices a form of public diplomacy known as ‘diaspora diplomacy’. This is probably the strongest form of public diplomacy which most African states have even though it may be as a result of unintended consequences such as war or famine. Ethiopia and Nigeria in particular have a huge number of their population living in the diaspora for various reasons. As economic migration increases, African diasporans who settle in western capitals and some such better nations will seek to maintain their cultural identity, exercise some of their beliefs and values in host countries, thereby inadvertently portray and share an image of their country, otherwise unknown to the host public. In addition as their community grows such as is the case with the Sierra Leonean, Nigerian and South African communities in the UK, they begin to influence the host governments and public’s policies towards their countries of origin. They may do this through direct engagement or through community activities which raise the profile of their countries both politically and economically.

The Winter publication of Public Diplomacy in Sub-Saharan Africa (2016) identifies the use of movies by Nigeria through their Nollywood film industry. Nigerian movies depicting their way of life, culture, values and beliefs are now widely broadcasted across African countries and western capitals such as London Sky TV channels. Further more countries such as the Congo have exported their rhumba music to capitals such as Paris and Brussels as well as other African states, thus providing a different perception of their country even though there is still a long way for the continent to be perceived as anything but a world ‘basket’ case of poverty and poor governance. Recently the world has began to witness African comedians such as Uganda’s Anne Kansiime and South Africa’s Trevor Noah practising publicy diplomacy for their states through comedy the US and European countries ( result for trevor noah shows in uk. Most African countries have been slow however to realise the benefits and support these activities as part of their diplomatic engagement with other countries, though some are now getting there. The question remains, however, have African states really embraced public diplomacy as a key component of their diplomatic services or their governments are still unappreciative of this nature of diplomacy?

The University of Southern California’s Centre on Public Diplomacy on March 10, 2017 published its view that African states are really embracing public diplomacy as a way of changing the economic, social and political perception of the continent with various initiatives. The hosting by South Africa of football’s world cup in 2010 was deemed as an act of public diplomacy through sport. This has not been lost to a country such as Senegal which according to Bret Schafer (2016) is now capitalising on their native Amadou Gallo Fall to attract the National Basket Association to host some of each matches in Dakar, with the country promoting and supporting its players to go and play in the US.  Of course the reverse may be true that the US for example may actually benefit more from acts such as this being the dominant country politically and economically. But that being said African states still stand to benefit somehow as populations in powerful states take to liking or loving these sports people. In England and some other football mad nations, one has to look at how African footballers have changed host nations people’s attitudes towards their countries of origin.

The point though is in most cases, there is no direct government link to this citizens public diplomacy be it sports or culture and most African states seem to lack the capacity to capitalise. It then falls into Sharp’s definition of public diplomacy, which does not emphasise government actions but rather an advancement of interests, values and beliefs by Africa’s diaspora population, which consequently ‘speaks’ to the populations in their domicile states to the benefit of their country of origin. Africans have also used religion as a form of public diplomacy to engage with those countries they feel would further their interests. For example over the last ten years many African countries have revived their diplomatic relations with Israel after years of avoiding so in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Both moslem countries such Algeria and predominantly christian countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria as well Ethiopia and South Africa, both have a huge population of Jews. These and others have used their belief that Israel ‘birthed’ christianity to access its markets and get its expertise to develop their nations. They have successfully courted Israel’s government and public thinking using their religious belief and zeal, which they are often derided for. Moslem countries in Africa have turned to Israel primarily to be helped fight terrorism as they regard Israel as an expert in combating terrorist acts. Of course when scrutinised further, Israel also needed friends at a time when western support for it is wavering or waning and a public charming of African countries presented a good opportunity ( result for nigerian diplomacy with israel

So what can be conclude as an answer to the question , does African countries know what public diplomacy is? Notwithstanding the fact most African governments may not be as much  knowledgeable of the practice or lack resources to do it at a scale done in the Western world, with dedicated TV news channels, government funded art, culture and film industries among other activities, African populations both in the diaspora and locally based do practice various forms of public diplomacy.


Schafer. B. (2016) Basket ball diplomacy in Africa;

Sharp. P. (2005). Revolutionary States, Outlaw Regimes and the Techniques of Public Diplomacy. Melissen.J. (2005) The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations