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South African universities look to the United States. why is it important

Three academic institutions in Africa have created units dedicated to the study of the United States. They are from the University of the Witwatersrand African Center for the Study of the United Statesthe American Language Center in Morocco and more recently, the African Center for the Study of the United States at the University of Pretoria. University of Pretoria Principal Tawana Kupe and Christopher Isike, the Center’s new director, explain why Africans need a better understanding of America.

The justification

The best universities in the world have research centers and think tanks dedicated to the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary study of other countries or regions. The general objective is to understand the historical, social, political, economic and cultural development of countries and their inhabitants.

It’s not just a worthwhile business for knowledge’s sake. It is also useful to formulate domestic and foreign policies to promote the interests of their nations. In this way, universities vindicate their mandates – both as citadels of learning and as influencers of global politics and international relations.

Many universities in Europe, North America and Asia have centers dedicated to the study of Africa. The mainland has recently begun to return the favor. In South Africa, for example, the University of Stellenbosch has the Center for Chinese Studiesand there is the University of Johannesburg Center for Sino-African Studies.

The University of Pretoria’s humanities department has also approved the establishment of a center for Asian studies, which is awaiting Senate approval. Along the same lines, several universities in South Africa have centers that study European and Asian languages ​​as part of the larger goal of understanding other societies.

The establishment of a African Center for the Study of the United States at the University of Pretoria should be considered in this context. It aims to help bridge Africa’s knowledge gap in its relationship with the United States.

The new unit aims to create knowledge and train experts that African countries need in their embassies, ministries of foreign affairs, companies and universities to influence the formulation of domestic and foreign policies that serve the interests of African states. The same is true for the media and civil society in Africa.

Importance of Africa Studying USA

The United States has studied Africa for 74 years. He has over 150 degree programs in African Studiesand about 40 African Studies Centers. Africa has only three that look elsewhere.

This mismatch in knowledge production means that the continent relates to the United States at a disadvantage. For example, African states and the continent as a whole have no defined policy towards the United States. On the other hand, US policy toward Africa is shaped by the insights of its many think tanks on Africa.

Without a clear, evidence-based African policy toward the United States, the continent is unable to capitalize on the opportunities of bilateral and multilateral relations with the superpower. the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act is a good example.

So what other factors explain why it is important for Africans to study the American nation and society?

Africa must understand the United States to inform its thinking, actions and interactions with the global superpower. This includes political relations to economic and commercial relations, intersections and cultural exchanges.

Given its superpower status and its economic and military interests in Africa, the United States has been an important player in Africa’s present and future. It also has significant cultural ties to the continent through the African diaspora and its African-American population.

In general, the African diaspora remains largely untapped by the continent in its quest for global influence and agency. This is because he has not studied his diaspora in the United States and elsewhere as much as he should.

The policy of the Biden administration is to engaging African countries as equal partners. This represents a shift in US policy toward Africa, which was primarily driven by Cold War imperatives and competition with China, toward a mutually beneficial partnership.

The United States ranks second after China in terms of job creation in Africa.

With 50 billion dollars, the United States was the third largest investor in Africa after France ($64 billion) and the Netherlands ($63 billion), in 2017. The United Kingdom and China lagged behind the United States. Each invested $43 billion in 2017.

Besides trade and investment, the United States also has a huge technological and cultural impact in Africa. This also has more military bases in Africa than any other nation.