Mauritius’ view on cultural diplomacy and its representation in Germany

An interview with H.E. Keshwar Jankee

February 17th, 2020
Imela Benie Boda, News from Berlin

Berlin, Germany – During the investment seminar of the Economic Development Board Mauritius (EDB) co-organized by the Afrika Verein der deutschen Wirtschaft, two team members of Berlin Global, Verna de Lange and Benie Boda, had the occasion to have a short interview with the ambassador of the Republic of Mauritius. He shared his thoughts on cultural diplomacy, globalization, and Mauritius’ representation in Germany.

What does cultural diplomacy represent for you?
Cultural diplomacy is a very important issue now because I have found that there is a lack of connection between trade and culture, especially when you take the case of Mauritius. We got a historical background with various cultures from India, from China, from Africa and even from Europe. So, this cultural diplomacy is very important for us because we can pick up easily. It is very important to know about cultures. Also, in business now it is very essential to know about the culture. For example, Mauritian investors must know about the German culture and German investors on their turn should know about the Mauritian culture before connecting with each other. I would say that that is the first step. Once you know the culture and you connect it is already something positive. So, for me, cultural diplomacy is very important. The reason is that you will also learn and know about the different characteristics of a country. Rather it is the language, the history, their different (consumption) habits, and much more, which are all related to each other.

Considering the geographically setting of Mauritius between the African and Asian continent, would you say that for Mauritius it is even more important to practice cultural diplomacy?
Despite the fact we left all those different countries a long time ago, things have changed. We are now culturally Mauritian; we have developed our own type of culture that we call the Mauritianism. So, it is one of Mauritians' responsibility to represent the culture.  Since we are not the same now it is important to also know about the African culture and the Indian culture which we left many years ago. To know about the different cultures before doing business or when developing a political relationship is essential. I can say that it is true that cultural diplomacy is indeed more important because some historical backgrounds are not relevant today. Especially with the internet and globalization, the culture is represented differently.

You mentioned the term globalization. What do you think about it and its possible influences?
The globalization that the world is talking about now is personally not happening, however, the form and the way in which it is presented are different. What I feel is that globalization should be clearly defined, and it must be a win-win situation. Globalization is good, provided that every party is benefiting from it and that it is done properly. If globalization is only for one section than it is bad. I also believe that at the international level, all the different countries of the world should be represented with their institutions that promote and stir globalization. They should be included. All the different voices should be represented. This is as well the voices of the poor countries, the voices of the developing countries, as the voices of the rich countries.

You talked about different voices such as the poor and the rich. How is poverty handled in your country?
First, it is important to know that there is no country in the world where they have no poor people, even in Germany or the United States. We have poor people, but it is relative, in other words, it depends. Someone that you know might be poor but is considered very rich when you compared it to Mauritius or other African countries. Poverty is something additive, so its definition depends on where you are. But in my country Mauritius, we have lots of safety and lots of facilities. For example, education is free, health care is free, we offer a universal pension, we have subsidies on rice and flower and many other products. And we also have a type of positive discrimination towards the poor. For example, we give them housing, education support, books, and many other facilities. So, I could say that we are doing well in helping the poor people in our country.

What influence or impact does the Mauritian culture have on Germany and vice versa?
Basically, Mauritius is already closely related to Europe in terms of trade. However, the impact on Mauritius from Germany could be learning a little bit more in terms of discipline, in terms of their approach for example in corruption, their role as an institution, leadership qualities, the role of a State, all those things are very important for developing countries. I will not say that everything is perfect in Europe, there are many problems too. But as I mentioned there are a few things that African countries could learn, such as trying to stir their economy or having a good rule of law. And I believe that if in developing countries there is the right leadership and the right institutions than there are no problems.
Now what European should learn from Mauritius is how we have that unique social harmony among the different ethnicities. We are people from all around the world with different religions, but we live very well in harmony, there are no ethnic problems. Other than that, we also have very good safety. So, that is what we, as a tourist destination, can learn to Germany and this by sharing and showing our culture and our environment.

Besides the seminars, like the one of today, what are other ways to represent your culture?
Everything related to our literature, our art, our music are other ways to share our culture. As well as cultural exchanges. And I think that the younger generation should be linked more to Mauritius through school by providing maybe exchange programs.

What are future projects the Mauritian Embassy is working on now?
We have lots of projects in mind. In terms of culture, for example, we try to have a cultural exchange with the ministry, we try to promote music opera in Mauritius, we try to promote visits for students from Mauritius and for students in Europe, and we try to see how we can link the Mauritian Diaspora, that is over two thousand, with the German culture.

To finish what could we as young interns or what could ICD do to help to represent your country and its culture?
You can organize, for example, an open day with the other African countries, organize specific conferences on different countries like Mauritius. From there you look at the history, the literature, the language, and the economy, and finally, you can also organize a visit for ICD students to the embassies, so connect the ICD students with universities in Mauritius. These are some ways you could promote the country and its culture.

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