Article 03: Factors Contributing to Rise of New African Public Diplomacy

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Understanding the digitization process of diplomacy is important, in order to appreciate how it has evolved and is practised today. It is equally as important to question where diplomacy fits within 21st century politics. This question may appear straightforward, however “diplomacy is experiencing an existential crisis…as a set of processes for managing an increasingly complex policy environment”(Hocking et al, 2012; p10). Pamment identifies three distinct factors that are causing changes in diplomacy; namely, ‘globalisation, technological and geopolitical factors. Pamment’s factors are key in understanding the impetus behind a MFAs adoption of digital technologies for diplomacy.

Globalisation

Globalisation has affected virtually all aspects of society including diplomacy. It is the “unfolding resolution of the contradiction between ever-expanding capital and its national political and social formations”(McBride and Wiseman, 2000;p9). It has increased a nations responsibility in maintaining “territorial boundaries, and [increased] the ‘gatekeeping’ role of foreign ministries, in managing flows of information between states and over borders” (Pamment, 2013; p26). Additionally, globalisation has facilitated greater accountability and improved government-to-citizen relations, which positively impacts foreign policy. Pamment opines this enhancement was because of new ‘communication technologies’, influenced by globalisation, which created “new links between Peoples and cultures”(Pammet, 2013;p6).

Technological Advances

Governments’ no longer hold a monopoly over information, as a ‘digital disruption’ in international politics has occurred. The public’s involvement in diplomacy has witnessed the authority of the political elite increasingly questioned. This has significantly diminished levels of secrecy and instead ushered in an era of transparency, which has fundamentally challenged diplomacy’s “traditional structures, relations and processes”(Pamment, 2013; p26). Consequently, as a social institution, diplomacy is more visible than ever”(Hocking and Melissen, 2015; p9). Governments are now using digital media to broadcast everything from their foreign policy agendas, to their daily activities as a show of ‘transparency’. However, despite their online presence, governments “have a hard time anticipating impending developments, let alone events, even though new technological capabilities appear to enhance the capacity for forecasting future trends”(Hocking and Melissen, 2015; p9).

Geopolitics

The third factor contributing to the emergence of new PD is largely concerned with the United States of America (US). This is because the majority of literature surrounding geopolitical factors is related to 9/11. This a fundamental limitation of Pamment’s framework in relation to this digital diplomacy in Africa. Nevertheless, this factor remains important in understanding why DD is important for African MFAs as the events impacted global foreign policy. The period following 9/11 marked a turning point in international politics, as governments began to question the role of PD in combatting the “war on terror and extremism”(Pamment, 2013; p28). This shift fundamentally impacted international opinion of PD because there was an “increased consciousness of shared risks in dealing with global issues”(Pamment, 2013; p28). This global pressure affected African foreign policy too, as it began to concentrate more heavily on strengthening security, in reaction to the events of 9/11.

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