Conducted by James Hood, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.
Q1. Europe is a good example of the benefits of regional institutions and economic integration as an effective way of establishing peace. How would you characterize the progress of Africa’s regional integration looking at the AU and other African organizations?
There are efforts that are being made at different levels for the African renaissance and the African integration. At regional levels we have instruments like the South African Development Community (SADC) where southern countries are cooperating on economic models and political models. Then you have got organizations like the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). For the past few years, there has been an increase on inter-trade between African countries. There is a lot of movement from one country to the other in trade and also on a social and political level. So integration is ongoing. We are building the capacity through treaties and models. You need to build the infrastructure before you can achieve your full potential, which is still happening in Europe today, so it is a process.
Q2. You mentioned that western media paints a bleak and simplistic view of Africa. As the minister of sport, how do you think the World Cup in South Africa will help portray a different side of Africa and allow for a different outlook on some of the more complex issues within the continent?
I have trust that the World Cup will bring a focus on the real Africa and I hope that it will contribute to removing certain stereotypes and bad images about Africa. The way the continent is portrayed in the mainstream Western media is that there is no life, no development, no infrastructure and no business going on. They make out that life Africa is one backward mess. It is underdeveloped, there is poverty and it’s disease stricken. Those who are going to the World Cup can see what makes the African people tick and see what they are passionate about. They will see that Africa isn’t all about the negative things that are said in the media. Africa is on the move. Africa consists of different nations which are at different stages of development just like Europe. Many African countries are democratic and peaceful. They are developing fast. There is peace and stability. There is security.
Q3. How can cultural diplomacy help solve some of the cultural divisions in Africa and help foster more cooperative efforts instead of competition and conflict that has previously happened?
Cultural diplomacy is very important for Africa and African nations. It is a diverse continent with many cultural differences, but we can bridge cultural differences by striving for a common understanding. We need to achieve mutual respect for a common purpose and common interest. An organization like the ICD is very important for training young leaders to understand the diverse cultural background of Africa. We should not allow people to impose models on people without understanding their social, political and economic background. Before you can impose your ‘universal values’ on people, you need to try to understand their environment and try to help in shaping or adjusting that environment – not in a violent way, but by marketing, selling and communicating strategies in order for people to buy into your culture or your values, rather than just imposing cultural values on people.