What do the U.S., Argentina, Afghanistan, and Myanmar have in common? This summer, two opportunities enabled me to explore this question from my perspective as an American violinist who recently moved to Argentina from Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama said the U.S. is expanding an initiative to develop and train political and economic leaders in Africa. Obama is expanding a U.S.-based program for young African leaders, and the U.S. Agency for International Development is providing $38 million to create leadership centers in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Senegal.
The new battle for Africa does not deploy strong-arm tactics, it is now a soft power game: economic and humanitarian aid, interest-free loans, preferential trade agreements and investments in infrastructure are currency across a continent that is, for the world's established and emerging powers, seemingly up for grabs.
This summer, 500 Africans studied business, leadership and public management on American campuses as part of a new State Department program. The Obama administration has hailed the effort, which is part of the larger Young African Leaders Initiative, as a fresh take on public diplomacy.
China’s increasing involvement in Africa has captured considerable attention from policymakers and academics. Formalized in a 2006 policy statement, “China’s Africa Policy,” Beijing’s interest in the region translates into Chinese government and government-affiliated institutions investing billions of dollars in large-scale construction projects across the continent.
China's foreign ministry has condemned the behaviour of some Chinese citizens in Africa following its ambassador to Tanzania giving an uncommonly frank newspaper interview in which he decried the "bad habits" of his compatriots. In the interview, Lu Xinsheng said Chinese businessmen smuggle ivory and rhino horns out of the country and flood local markets with counterfeit goods while contractors constantly try to undercut each other, resulting in shoddy infrastructure projects.
France's budget for public development aid continues to fall. The French government presented its altered, and reduced, budget for this year's foreign aid. "The ministry contributed in the collective effort of reducing France’s public deficit, but everyone has to take part," said Annick Girardin, France’s Secretary of State for Development and Francophonie. A finance law will reduce the foreign aid budget by €73 million in 2014. It was originally €2.9bn.