Hello! I am Veda Vaidyanathan, a policy researcher who specializes in Asia – Africa engagement. An Associate at the Harvard University Asia Center, a Fung Global Fellow at Princeton University (2022-23) and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi, I am currently based in New York City.
My interest in this field began in the summer of 2011, when I started writing my graduate thesis contrasting Indian and Chinese investments into the extractive sector in select African countries. A decade and a Doctorate later, the subject is still fascinating.
I’ve spent the past few years designing projects examining these interactions, across sectors, including Infrastructure development in Tanzania and Kenya, Pharmaceutical manufacturing in Ethiopia, Agriculture cooperation in Zambia, Mining and Financial Services in Zimbabwe. Every project thus far has involved extensive fieldwork with a multi-cultural team of experts. The effort has been to gather perspectives from the grassroots, conduct evidence-based research that bridges the academic research – development practitioner work gap.
Having inhabited multiple roles – as a Consultant for NGO’s in Zimbabwe and Kenya, leading the Africa vertical at an Indian think tank, a doctoral student at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Mumbai, a fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), a visiting fellow at the School of International Studies, Peking University, China and at the Harvard-Yenching Institute – has helped examine this dynamic theme from different vantage points.
While I am trained to analyze interactions between countries, my interest extends to the role of subnational actors including the individual in shaping these engagements. A paper explaining state behavior from the point of view of an Indian farmer in Kenya and a Chinese contractor in Tanzania titled ‘Reimagining Engagement and Realigning Priorities: How India and China are Informing the African Growth Story‘, won the World Society Foundation Award in Switzerland in April 2019.
In addition to research, I have a book of narrative essays taking form, and when I am not traveling, meandering through a museum, listening to stand up comedians or local bands, you can find me engrossed in a conversation with my army of nieces and nephews.