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Cultural Diplomacy in Africa
Event Review (August 2009)
After having arrived and registered at Amerika House in Berlin, the participants of Cultural Diplomacy in Africa (CDA) attended a lecture entitled, ‘An Introduction to the Field of Cultural Diplomacy’ given by the ICD’s Development Director Mr. Peter Rees. During this session the young leaders were given an overview of the history and development of cultural diplomacy.
This was followed by the lunch break during which participants could reflect on what they had learnt whilst continuing to get to know each other. They reassembled back at Amerika House where the seminar concerning, ‘Tourism as Cultural Diplomacy and CSR’ began. Mr. Jeffrey van Staden, Director of Elangeni African Adventures, gave an interactive and practical talk about the role that tourism can play in the advancement of cultural diplomacy. He explained that his travel agency works with its partners in Africa in a socially responsible way both for moral reasons and due to ever increasing public request. The participants then discussed the challenges and opportunities that smaller companies face with regards to CSR.
After a short coffee break the young leaders took part in a workshop entitled, ‘Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) in Africa.’ The participants talked about the development of socially responsible investment programs and ways in which African countries can secure such investments. The young leaders worked together in groups and representatives from each group presented their ideas on the topic.
The final activity of the day was a welcome group dinner at En Passant, a Restaurant located in Savignyplatz, in the heart of West Berlin’s bar scene. The young leaders had the chance to relax and reflect upon the day’s activities whilst enjoying the food and wine that was on offer.
After coffee and refreshments the young leaders headed to the European House Berlin where Prof. Ulrich Brückner, Jean Monnet Professor at Stanford, gave a lecture entitled, ‘The African Union and the European Union.’ The roles and the impacts of the AU and the EU were compared and their relations, including inter-organisational projects were assessed.
The participants then had a lunch break, returning to Amerika House in the early afternoon when Ms. Kornelia Bitzer-Zenner from the ‘Aktion Afrika’ team at the German Foreign Office gave a lecture on ‘German Cultural Diplomacy in Africa.’ The lecture took a look at German cultural diplomatic practices in Africa such as initiatives by the Goethe Institute as well as the fostering of mutual understanding through cultural and educational exchanges. This was followed by a brief coffee break, after which the program continued with a seminar held by guest speaker, Mr. Oliver Kumbambe, Deputy Ambassador for Malawi. He led the seminar by discussing contemporary Malawian-German Relations. It became clear that Germany was one of Malawi’s key trading partners in Europe and the presentation highlighted the successes and challenges of Malawian-German relations with respect to political, cultural and economic issues.
The young leaders then moved on to the Listros Art Gallery on Kurfürstenstraße and were greeted there by Mr. Dawit Shanko, who gave an insightful and inspiring talk on social work and Microcredit in Ethiopia and on African art in Europe. The talk also focussed on German-Ethiopian art initiatives as well as the establishment of microfinance for young workers in Ethiopia. Mr. Shanko himself used to be a shoe shiner in Ethiopia and explained the necessity of such work in order for young children to finance their education. He explained the importance of keeping the work legalised, which sparked a discussion amongst the group. He also explained how he set up his organisation in order to improve people’s lives through art and spoke of his intentions in creating a bank fund for young children. After the talk the group then went on an excursion to Kreuzberg and enjoyed the evening in one of the district’s trendy bars.
Day three began at Amerika House with a presentation given by Dr. Neven, Managing Director of AUMA. He discussed the qualities that make Germany a suitable country for exhibitions and talked about the role that Africa plays in German fairs. The young leaders then had coffee and refreshments followed by a session on ‘Music as Cultural Diplomacy’. Mr. Reggie Moore spoke to the participants about the use of music as a tool for soft power and cultural diplomacy whilst playing the piano to them. He explained how particular chords and sounds can appeal to human beings in different ways and spoke of his experiences as a US Jazz Ambassador during the Cold War. In addition one of the ICD interns gave an emotional vocal performance, further highlighting the power and emotion that music has.
The participants then headed to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development where speaker Mr. Michael Bauer held a seminar on the challenges and opportunities of German development aid in Africa. The participants were also lucky enough to meet the Minister briefly, who answered some of their questions. The young leaders then enjoyed lunch and refreshments in the reception area of the ministry.
Later in the afternoon, back at the Amerika House, a lecture was given on Rwanda’s achievements regarding the progress it has made during the last 15 years after the genocide against the Tutsis. Mr. Felix Sangano Muhire, the First Secretary of the Embassy of Rwanda, gave a practical and step-by-step talk regarding the country’s transition after colonialism and the genocide as well as talking about the community trials and the high amount of women in the Rwandan government today. It emerged that the measures Rwanda took helped it to become one of the safest countries in Africa today. The session ended with a discussion during which Mr. Muhire answered the participants’ questions.
The group then went on an excursion to the famous East side gallery, the largest open-air gallery in the world. They had the chance to see one of the longest stretches of the former Berlin wall and saw the works of over 100 artists from all over the globe.
The day began with a lecture on the KfW Development Bank and development projects in Africa given by Ms. Stefanie Jung, the KFW Development Bank’s Project Coordinator. The role of the KfW Bankengruppe was discussed with regards to the sustainable economic development of Africa. In particular there was a special focus on the establishment of projects to improve access to water and other natural resources. The focus was not only on the creation of water sources but on educating the users to clean them properly, to maintain them and to repair them, therefore encouraging self sufficiency.
After the lunch break the young leaders attended a lecture on the existing economic bridges between Germany and Africa given Ms. Claudia Ziegeler, German African Business Association – Afrika Verein. Ms. Ziegeler considered Germany’s status as Africa’s fifth largest trade partner and the explored the successes and challenges of the close economic relations between the two nations.
In the afternoon H.E. Carlos dos Santos, Ambassador of Mozambique held an engaging and invigorating seminar on Mozambique and its role in Africa. He highlighted that Mozambique is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, that it is quickly becoming a leading partner in the South African Development Community (SADC) and that it is a key regional partner in the AU. H.E. Carlos dos Santos discussed the future economic opportunities that Mozambique has with the participants and the seminar was a celebrative occasion that discussed the major topics that had been covered so far.
The last scheduled activity for the day was entitled ‘Brain Drain or Brain Gain? Africans and the African Diaspora abroad.’ The flow of African students and young professionals to other continents was discussed and some interesting conclusions were made. The participants then had a free evening to do as they wished before the final day of the forum.
The final day of the CDA Forum began with a highly successful leadership Initiatives session, moderated by the ICD’s founder Mr. Mark Donfried, during which the young leaders presented their leadership initiatives to the group. From the session two initiatives have emerged as successful examples of networking that the ICD provides. One is aimed at tackling the illiteracy rate in South Africa and the other is focussed on connecting children in the USA and Africa through drawings. The children are given a topic or a theme, they then draw a picture of it and then send it to the other children. Such initiatives will promote understanding through the representations and drawings that are produced.
After the lunch break the Ambassador of Lesotho H.E. Makase Nyaphisi gave a presentation on cultural diplomacy in Lesotho and Africa as a whole. He described the current situation between Lesotho and South Africa, talked about the current integration initiatives and focussed on the good relations between the two countries. He was very supportive of cultural diplomacy and of the ICD’s work. The session turned out to be appropriately conclusive and provided a smooth finish to the academic side of the forum.
The CDA forum concluded with a lively farewell celebration beach party, where the young leaders celebrated their final evening together in style.