Framing South Africa’s Soft Power through Non-State Sources

September 2017

South Africa arguably stands well above its regional counterparts in terms of soft power resources. This is not entirely unconnected with the uncalculated attempts by non-state actors to extend the reach of the country’s soft power status across the world. This article probes the contributions of the informal drivers of South Africa’s soft power. These ‘soft powered’ institutions and individuals (with no definite state affiliation) are critical contributors to South Africa’s soft power diplomacy. The country’s soft power is in part driven by the unintended outcome of the actions of a wide variety of non-state actors including civil society, the media, iconic individual personalities and multinational corporate entities. The article argues that South Africa can realise its greater foreign policy ambition and cement a benevolent hegemonic profile in Africa by focusing on specific roles that its informal soft power sources can play. Therefore, as an emerging power, South Africa is well placed to harness the substance inherent in its soft power instruments and resources by paying attention to these unofficial soft power sources but also strategically fine-tuning the same with official policy goals in subtly achieving Pretoria’s ambitions as a key player in international political discourse.