International Visitor Leadership Program: Wilson Center Meets with New South African Think Tank | Wilson Center
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International Visitor Leadership Program: Wilson Center Meets with New South African Think Tank

On February 23, 2016, under the auspices of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, the Wilson Center held a meeting with representatives from the South African Institute of International Affairs and the University of the Witwatersrand. Mr. Moeletsi Mbeki, Mr. Jonathan Stead, and Mr. Tawana Kupe were accompanied by Ms. Varvara Olson, an International Visitor Liaison. The agenda of the meeting was to discuss and share knowledge about the representatives' plans to establish the African Center for Study of the United States in South Africa.

The visitors expanded on four core agendas in creating the African Center for Study of the United States. First, at the intellectual level, the Center seeks to close the knowledge gap and promote a critical understanding of the United States by: 1) moving past the cold war and liberation struggle mindset that influences South Africans’ negative perspective of the United States; 2) branching out of South African scholarship that has tended to focus on South Africa’s relations with India and China; and 3) addressing misunderstandings and conspiracy theories regarding the United States. Second, the proposed Center hopes to form a partnership and close network with global think tanks, African institutions, and universities, and envisions hosting and exchanging scholars. Third, the Center seeks to train and form a new generation of youth who are informed and adept at understanding the U.S. political, social, and economic system.  Finally, the Center seeks to promote South African philanthropy and tap into the U.S. - South African business intersection.

The Center is proposed to function as a place of intellectual scholarship where research is conducted to influence South African policy towards the United States. It seeks to promote its goals by conducting commissioned research; engaging in consultancies; training graduates and scholars from different parts of Africa in becoming media friendly and producing policy research in areas such as culture, trade and investment, constitutional democracy, and sustainability; and hosting events to share research results and key policy issues with the public.

In recognizing that the center’s creation is a long term project, with approximately 25+years of institutional commitment, the representatives shared their plans to enact the program. With hopes of starting the project this year, the short-term agenda for the participants is to revise and send out) the concept paper based on the their trip in the United States (including to the Wilson Center; fundraise to meet the budgetary requirements of the project; and create a memorandum of understanding.