Book Review: Africa’s Soft Power: Philosophies, Political Values, Foreign Policies and Cultural Exports

Published date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
The best quality of Stand on Guard is not its meta-narrative, but its clear and usually
even-handed description of the nature of the specif‌ic threats to national security that Dr.
Carvin chooses to examine. That it adopts a restrictive and narrow def‌inition of threats
and bypasses some core challenges posed by such global challenges as pandemics,
climate change, and cyber criminality is a ref‌lection of the fact that our understanding of
national security in its complex reality is, and should be, contested. If Stand on Guard
makes a f‌irst, imperfect, case for our understanding of a newpost-9/11 world where
terrorism doesnt operate at the pinnacle of our concerns, that is as things should be.
Oluwaseun Tella
Africas Soft Power: Philosophies, Political Values, Foreign Policies and Cultural Exports
New York: Routledge, 2021. 227 pp. $133.00 (hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1-032-00835-6
Reviewed by: Christopher Isike, University of Pretoria, South Africa
This is a much-needed and overdue f‌irst book on Africas soft power, and an important
contribution to knowledge on soft power in Africa. The book robustly engages with the
literature on African soft power as it systematically covers all the important works that
have been done on the subject since 2011 with Karen Smiths application of the concept
to Africa.
Essentially, the book documents the soft power resources, opportunities, and
challenges of four regional powers in Africa. It makes its case successfully through all
of its seven chapters highlighting the successes and challenges of these major actors in
exercising their soft power to achieve their foreign policy objectives. These dovetail
into the books concluding chapter which prof‌iles Africa as a model of soft power with
opportunities it can leverage for rewriting its story from the inside with a view to
changing global stereotypes and perceptions of the continent which hamper its de-
velopment. Indeed, as the author concludes, with Africas rising soft power prof‌ile, it
remains the future of the global economy and provides a model for economic growth.
Therefore, to quote Tella, the extent to which Africa will be able to counteract global
Afrophobia will depend on the degree to which the regional powers of Nigeria, South
Africa, Kenya, and Egypt and other key states like Angola, Ethiopia, Morocco, and
Algeria, are able to harness their soft power capabilities to shape global perceptions of
the continent(178).
There are two important contributions the book makes, in my view. One, it brilliantly
frames its argument using a mix of Western conceptions and measures of soft power,
and an African context of soft power that is rooted in African philosophical symbols.
This, for me, is the f‌irst critical contribution the book makes to soft power studies in
Africa. De-Americanizing the concept of soft power and Africanizing it is critical to
how we take soft power studies in Africa forward, and the book extends this imperative
Book Reviews 615

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