The growth of cultural diplomacy as a means of engaging in international discourse has become increasingly prevalent in developed countries in the Western World, but it is by no means restricted to these states. In recent years, there have been numerous examples of culturally diplomatic effort exercised by states, corporations and individuals across the African continent. In the last fifty years, this region has undergone numerous political and economic changes. The UNDP commends the region’s progress in democratisation, stating that since the independence movements of the 1960s, Africa has the highest number of countries operating under democratic systems. Additionally, before the 2008 economic crisis, the region had substantial growth rates, which moved many countries closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals set for 2015. By 2008, poverty rates in sub-Saharan Africa had dropped to 46%, which is an improvement considering that this region has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. The global financial crisis has had major impacts across Africa, slowing the rate of poverty decrease and by 2015, the World Bank and the IMF estimate that the poverty rate will be 38%, rather than the previously estimated 36%. This 2% difference translates to 20 million fewer people being lifted out of poverty. Environmental changes also have had a strong impact across this region. If the trend in global climate change continues, and temperatures rise an additional two degrees Celsius in sub-Saharan Africa, the UNDP estimates that “an additional 600 million people in the region could face hunger, new epidemics of mosquito-borne diseases as well as additional agricultural losses of up to US$26 billion by 2060.”[1]

Besides these economic and environmental factors, the African continent is host to multiple conflicts. According to the Uppsala University Conflict Data Programme (UCDP), the only African countries not currently experiencing one or more conflicts are Egypt, Benin, Gabon, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Malawi, out of a total of 58 countries.[2] Thus, the African continent is not without a significant number of challenges, but also is not without numerous positive examples of peace-building programmes and diplomacy, and in particular, cultural diplomacy. Across the African continent, governments are embracing the diversity within and across their borders and using it as a means to foster dialogue and various forms of exchange. The following is an initial assessment of some of these varied programmes of cultural diplomacy.

[1] UNDP for Africa: http://www.undp.org/africa/

[2] This number is according to UN statistics and it includes some disputed territories. See http://unstats.un.org/unsd/methods/m49/m49regin.htm#africa



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