Young Leaders´ Forums

Cultural Diplomacy In Africa

October 2008

Forum Reports

Countries represented at the CDA forum:

Libya, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, UK, Germany, USA, Seychelles, Spain, Kenya, Egypt, Denmark, The Netherlands, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and China

Forum Report Day 1: October 6th, 2008

Cultural diplomacy as a via media for dialogue and cooperation
The Cultural Diplomacy in Africa Forum started with a series of high-profile lectures and seminars conducted by renowned experts in the field of cultural diplomacy. The first seminar carried out by the Director of the ICD, Mark Donfried, concentrated on the importance as well as the complexities of cultural and political exchange in light of globalization. It traced the history of cultural diplomacy in the realm of global politics and international affairs in addition to illustrating it with examples of diplomacy in cultural and artistic fields. It also explained the work of the ICD in the promotion of cultural, political and creative understanding.

After the introduction the forty participants had a chance to engage in a critical analysis of intercultural communication and dialogue between civilizations conducted by Prof. Dr. Cullin, the Head of the Austrian-French Research Centre of the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. He spoke in length about different cultures in a historic context while explaining the intricacies of cultural exchange in a political landscape dominated by ‘hard power’. The need to build sustainable cultural bridges was emphasised on many occasions and led to the conclusion that not only do future cultural diplomats need to implement projects that enhance cultural dialogue but they also have to promote stable and long-term initiatives leading to sustainable investments and long-lasting approaches to cultural diplomacy.

The seminar was followed by a discussion carried out by the Ambassador of Lesitho, H.E. Makase Nyaphisi. He informed the participants about the Kingdom of Lesotho in addition to acquainting them with the importance of their roles as young leaders in today’s world; and more importantly, he elaborated on how to be good leaders. The day was concluded with reception by the ICD at the America House. The function comprised of a series of informative discussions pertaining to the upcoming US election.

Forum Report Day 2: October 7th, 2008

Future prospects for Africa: education and development aid
The second day of CDA commenced with a sightseeing tour of Berlin, which was followed by an afternoon of intellectual engagement. Dr. Daniel Zimmermann, Head of the DAAD (The German Academic Exchange Service) touched on the main objectives of the DAAD and emphasized the importance of exchange and interaction using education as a tool.

Mr Zimmermann led the group through the various programmes conducted by the DAAD and answered the queries that the group had pertaining to courses that are available and other special programmes that the organization offers. The DAAD is an independent organization and does not depend on official politics. While emphasising the fact that the DAAD is not a business, Dr Zimmermann nevertheless pointed out that it has to compete with other players in this specific field. While promoting not only academic but also artistic exchange, the organization offers a multitude of educational possibilities. The presence of 'African centres of excellence' sparked interest amongst the listeners as this meant that African students who felt Germany was too far were able to enrol in universities within Africa and learn under the same German educational system as the sister universities in Germany itself.

The second seminar took place at the KfW Development Bank and was conducted by Leon Macioszek, Director of the International Department of the KfW Bank and Head of the Berlin Bureau. The main subject of the seminar was German Development aid and Strategy in Africa and beyond. Mr Macioszek gave insights into some of the bank's main projects like the environmental and climate protection plan as well as the aid given to the realm of education in developing countries. He also opened the floor for some inspiring discussions relating to development aid in the African continent as well as KfW’s role in facilitating this. The participants were thus given an opportunity to make suggestions for better aid allocation and offer their own individual perspectives on the current state of development aid in Africa.

In the evening, ICD hosted an invigorating music event called Sherehe ya Africa: A Celebration of Africa, which offered a more light-hearted approach to cultural diplomacy.

Forum Report Day 3: October 8th, 2008

Music as cultural diplomacy, integration, CSR and Pan-Africanism: the Third Day of CDA
Wednesday morning was a natural continuation of the evening before. The participants found themselves in the famous Berliner Philharmonic for the sole purpose of exploring the role of music as cultural diplomacy.

The day continued on a more serious note with a series of panel discussions held at the Rotes Rathaus in Berlin. The topics ranged from assimilation vs. integration to Pan-Africanism and the prospects of a United States of Africa.

The first panel discussion was started on a high note with Natasha A. Kelly, editor of X-Magazin moderating the discussion on Assimilation vs. Integration. The wide array of backgrounds that the speakers came from, gave a new insight into the issues pertaining to assimilation and integration of the African Diaspora as well as Africans in the continent into societies not connected to their ethnicities. The speakers included Todd Fletcher (Director of Plural Arts Berlin), Alicyn Vye Henning (Director of Street Oscar’s), Michael Geddes (Head of Communication and Media of Streetfootballworld) and Ms. Niombo Lomba (Corporate External Affairs Manager at Celesio AG). The gist of the discussion was best conceptualized by Mr Todd Fletcher who analogised integration as a mixed salad and assimilation as a melting pot, thus concluding that one is better off with a wide yet distinct variety of cultures, languages and backgrounds rather than with a gray mass that has no individual character.

Following the informative and engaging first panel of discussions, the participants went on to talk about today's hot topics 'Corporate Social Responsibility' and 'Socially Responsible Investment'. The panel was led by ICD's very own CSR expert, Shinu Thomas. The discussion allowed the Young Leaders to consider the multi-faceted nature of CSR while offering wide variety of ideas and perspectives put forwards by the panellists. The panel was concluded with a golden question hanging in the air. With participants questioning why Africa has not used its resources to the fullest, the biggest query was 'What is the missing link in Africa?' Most agreed that there is a dire need for solutions instead of laying the blame on each other.

Pan-Africanism panel was certainly the most vociferous of them all, mostly due to the fact that the participants had the chance to discuss African matters with the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy. Chaired by the eminent European Commissioner Dr. Antonio Brueser, the discussion also gained a European dimension, which in turn enriched the overall outcome of the panel. Dr. Kwame Akonor, the Director of the Centre of Africana and Diaspora Studies at Seton Hall University in the USA, concluded the day with a bold yet intriguing statement: 'Aid has failed in Africa. This dependency syndrome simply has to stop. Corruption in African countries means that millions of dollars in aid are being misused and not reaching the proper channels that could guarantee fair distribution. Africa needs no more aid'.

Needless to say, the day was full of engaging arguments, deep discussions, passionate and heated exchanges and at the end of it all, the World Language Party on the Eastern Comfort Boat closed the intellectually stimulating chaos of the day on a more relaxing note with music and drinks.

Forum Report Day 4: October 9th, 2008

Development and Health in Africa: Problems and Solutions
The fourth day of CDA focused on many topics ranging from healthcare in Africa and Millennium Development Goals to development aid and the relationship between Europe and Africa, as well as on their respective impacts on cultural diplomacy.

The day started with a series of important discussions and high profile lectures in the German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag), followed by a seminar in the German Ministry of Foreign Relations (Auswärtiges Amt).

Andreas Hübers, the head of ONE, an advocacy and campaigning organization supported by more than 2 million people, offered insights into the successful realization of the Millennium Development Goals. Mr. Hübers rightly pointed out that “one can not combat one MDG without paying attention to the others. For instance, it is impossible to fight for maternal mortality without fighting for women’s rights. The same applies to various other factors, such as infrastructure and the need for a strong state. After all, heath and development are co-existent and ought to complement eachother. Thus, cooperation between donor states, recipient states and non-governmental actors is essential in the battle for development in Africa.”

The distinguished Dr. Eid of the Green Party (Die Grünen) talked with immense enthusiasm about her role and her ideas about the policies and exchanges that happen between Germany and the African continent. Dr Eid has been active in the political realm in Germany since 1980. Having spent her time in Eritrea and having been a strong voice at the G8-Africa meeting, her views and opinions were absorbed with great interest. The discussion that took place at the Bundestag was an eye-opener for the majority of participants and Dr Eid's straight-talk approach to matters relating to African politics was extremely refreshing.

Dr. Eid vocally emphasised the fact that Africa does not need a missing link that would make it all better, bur rather Africa is the missing link that has the resources, both political and economic, to create sustainable development. This notion was later on echoed in the German Ministry of Foreign Relations by Mr Matthias Mülmenstädt who underlined the fact that one cannot force change, but rather change has to come from within, and Africa is more than ready for it to occur.

Forum Report Day 5: October 10th, 2008

Cultural Diplomacy in a Global Context: Reflection on the week's interdisciplinary program
The conclusion of the Cultural Diplomacy in Africa program proved to be the highlight of the week’s events as everyone was able to think about what they had heard and articulate their own thoughts on the discussions that had transpired. The participants, after a week of intellectually stimulating discussions, took a moment to reflect on the issues that were brought to the table. The setting of this final leg of conversation was perfect, being the historical building of the German Council of Foreign Relations.

Led by Chidiogo Akunyili, the program director, the participants openly aired their views and went on to share their one week long experience with the CDA Forum. Enthusiastic remarks as well as heartfelt appreciation on having been able to communicate and hold discussions with renowned and respected leaders of the African society were expressed by a number of participants.

A short coffee break followed the intense review session, where participants realised the magnitude of issues that they have dealt with.

The solutions and the step forward was the natural progression to conclude this exemplary forum for young leaders. Participants gave more than their two cents worth on where Africa and its young leaders should head, after having had this exposure to points of views from other parts of Africa they were not exposed to initially.

Though this was the full stop to the end of this forum, the participants nevertheless, have made the connections necessary to carry on from this point. As Chidiogo called on the participants to receive their certificates of participation and to honour their contributions and efforts, the success of this program was evident from the gratitude expressed. The contacts made with prominent figures within the African society boosted the young leaders desire to trudge ahead and find the ‘link’ they had been talking about all week, in order to initiate that bright new start in the nation that holds gems of promises.


Interviews with the panellists at the Panel Discussion Event 8 October 2008

Short interview with Todd Fletcher, Director of Plural Arts in Berlin
How would you conceptualize integration and assimilation? 'Assimilation for me has negative connotations. I'm all for keeping the distinct characteristics that every individual possesses. Rather than putting all the different people in one blender and mixing them into some grey mixture, a tossed salad where each individual's colours and special attributes are kept, would be better'. 'Music and theatre are great ways to learn a language and language is often the key to integration'.

How does the organization incorporate the importance of language as a tool for integration into the programs that are being conducted? 'While we offer programmes both in German and English, the concentration for younger kids, aged 6 to 10, is definitely German as it is the right time to stimulate an interest and an appreciation for language. So by learning these projects, performing in German and then getting applause for that helps to change their attitudes towards that language and reshape the relationship they have with it.'

Michael Geddes, who works for the organisation Streetfootballworld, talked about the use of sports, especially football, as a method of bringing people together
How much potential is there in sports to engage and integrate women? 'Football has been a culturally recognised sport for a long time. There is, however, still a need to break down the stigmas attached to women. We must bring the girls to the same side as the boys. Football is just one avenue and the focus is usually on the boys. Sports or music should never be in isolation. One has to find the right avenue to engage the youth, via music, dance, or other sports like netball even. You will never find a perfect vehicle but the key is to keep mixing things up to find a good blend.'

Dr. Antonio Brüser added a very interesting facet to the stimulating and vociferous discussion
What should be the next step for Africa? 'For Africa it is important to utilise its resources, be they political, economic or ecological, to the fullest. Only then it can reach its potential. Furthermore, in order to regain the trust of their people, the African governments need to be strong ones and see sovereignty not as a right derived by the virtue of statehood alone but rather as a value extended to them by their citizens'.


Sherehe ya Africa: A Celebration of Africa Event 7 October 2008. Music and Dance as Cultural Diplomacy

More than 120 people gathered on Tuesday evening at the restaurant En Passant at Savignyplatz in order to enjoy an evening filled with good music, food, wine, and most importantly, great company.

In the words of ICD's Director, Mark Donfried, "Sherehe ya Afrika: A Celebration of Africa was organized for the purpose of making new friends and building connections". The formation of these friendships and connections make it possible to transcend borders and build sustainable bridges between cultures and societies while music enhances cross-cultural interaction that cuts across various barriers such as language, ethnicity and religion.

Breaking bread together proved to be an excellent way for finding a common ground for the exchange of ideas that the participants had brought with them. Not only were there people from almost every corner of the world but they also possessed the willingness to converse with their counterparts on topics not usually addressed on an everyday basis. The evening thus opened the door to untreaded territories that found plenty of exploring during the next few days.

The evening started off with a delicious dinner followed by music and dance. The scene was ideal for some intense socializing. Out of curiosity I decided to find out what the participants thought of the event and so I set off to discover the possibilities of mingling while trying to gather insights into the comprehensive variety of people, personalities and backgrounds.

Rose from the UK agreed to share her perspectives with the CD News. When asked what struck her the most during this evening, she pointed out how captivating she found it to listen to a mixture of music that had roots in more than one culture: 'The experience is quite different from what I had expected. I wouldn't have envisaged this, as it's not typical African but rather a combination of contemporary Western and traditional African music. The effect is absolutely mesmerizing!'

Zhiguang from China added that it was an ideal opportunity to engage in various social activities while at the same time being an amazing cultural spectacle.

Chukwudi David from Nigeria and Trinidad/Tobago passionately stated that 'while the event opens up a platform for dialogue on topics pertaining to African identity, culture and politics, the forum has the potential to initiate important discussions about the role of the West as well as Africa itself in determining the future of the continent. It is also a wonderful experience, a cultural extravaganza that is the outcome of mixing nationalities, ethnicities, food, music and dance. And what better place to experience it in than Berlin! The city is, after all, renown for its music and this evening most certainly signifies the importance of artistic expression.'

Richard from the UK echoed the sentiments of Chukwudi David saying that 'the diverse and culturally stimulating nature of Berlin has a tendency to form an unforeseen connection between people. In addition to that, the evening offers insights into other and less mainstream facets of cultural diplomacy.'


Interviews with the participants

Small Talk with Cristina Martin Rodriguez from Spain
You used to work for the European Commission. What do you consider fascinating about the projects European organizations are carrying out together with their African partners?
European Commission has a Directorate General for Development, which has its main focus on the African continent. Its main objective is to support infrastructure, health care and the education system in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals established by the UN. The European Commission spends a large amount of resources on those initiatives. I personally used to work in the Unit for Middle East.

Has European Union established the same relations with all the regions? Could one claim that the European Commission is treating Middle-East countries in the same way as it is treating African countries?
Well, the main focus in Africa at the EU level is mostly through Development policies. The Middle East is a region partly included in the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy. This means that this area is offered a privileged relationship with the EU presenting a deeper political relationship as well as economic integration. However, many Members of the European Parliament highlight the need to strengthen ties with the African continent in this direction.

European Commission has been criticized for not treating African countries as equal partners. Europe is not trying to ultimately heal African continent by creating stable economic or cultural relations, but rather they seem to be providing help that does not have the potential of building a sustainable connection between Africa and the rest of the world.
I'm afraid I can just talk about the way aid is delivered through DG Development. When it comes to implementing development projects in Africa, or elsewhere, the EU Commission follows the so-called Country Strategy Paper, which is designed by the recipient country. This way ownership is ensured. When it comes to development projects the recipient country always has the last word resulting in a real partnership. When it comes to other Directorates General such as DG Trade or DG External Relations the balance of powers might be different and I would not be surprised if some policies are not discussed with African counterparts at the same level.

In your opinion what is the cause of this situation? What can be done to unify EU policies?
We must perceive European Union as an organization consisting of 27 Member States. And as we might have observed before, it is rather difficult for all of them to devise a common plan of action, regardless of what the plan is related to: economy, politics, foreign affairs etc. Fortunately, each member state agrees on the need of helping the African continent in terms of aid provision. But on the other hand, each one of those 27 member states has its own political agenda and national interest in Africa. Therefore, it is extremely complicated to create a common and comprehensive policy concerning Africa that would be approved by all of the states.

What can you say about CDA? Have you found out anything that might be useful in your work?
It was a great pleasure to be here. We were dealing with current and urgent challenges that the African continent is facing. Cultural Diplomacy is the answer to many of these challenges and yet, it is often overlooked. I personally found extremely enriching the interaction with my African colleagues who provided me with a whole new perspective on the African reality. I learned that Africa should rather be seen as an opportunity for investment and for the establishment of cultural relations rather than as a challenging region. This would be the best way to achieve sustainable development in Africa.

Small talk with Natasja Reslow from the Netherlands
How did you find out about CDA? What made you join us?
My supervisor at Maastricht University told me about the CDA Forum. He thought it would be a good idea for me to join because I will soon be starting a PhD dealing with the EU's mobility partnerships, which is conducted with (among others) Cape Verde and Senegal. For me, I saw CDA as a chance to improve my understanding of African issues (as I have a European Studies background), which will be vital if I am to understand the process of negotiations between the EU and African states.

You are from The Netherlands. Do you think that countries that are not major worldwide players can be leaders in terms of providing aid for undeveloped regions?
I certainly think there's scope for small countries to be leaders in terms of providing aid for underdeveloped regions - the Scandinavian countries, for example, are some of the few countries that actually meet the internationally set target of giving 0.7% of GDP as aid. However, I believe that European countries acting together will be able to have more influence and therefore lead the way forward in providing aid.

In your opinion, what does the future hold for diplomacy? Will issues still be settled by diplomats and politicians or rather will it be ordinary people and mutual understanding between nations that will prevail?
I believe that one of the effects of globalization (that is already being seen) is an increasing contact between ordinary people from different parts of the world. So while I believe that politicians and diplomats will probably still play the most important role in diplomacy, I am optimistic that this increased contact among civil society will lead to mutual understanding between nations.

Has your knowledge of Africa been broadened? Did you find out anything surprising, interesting...? Which seminars did you like the most and which ones the least?
My knowledge of Africa has certainly been broadened. The main points that are the outcome of this week were that developed countries have to listen to what Africa wants, and allow the African countries to produce their own development strategies, while at the same time realizing that there is a need for real dialogue between developed and developing countries. While these were ideas that I had already come across in an academic context, the inter-cultural dialogue of the CDA offered a much more practical and hands-on experience. I particularly enjoyed the presentations at KfW as it gave us a chance to actually discuss various matters in groups. The presentation conducted by Dr. Uschi Eid was also extremely engaging.