Hello! I am Veda Vaidyanathan, a policy researcher who specializes in Asia – Africa engagement. A Fung Global Fellow at Princeton University (2022-23), an Associate at the Harvard University Asia Center and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi, I examine Indian and Chinese interactions with various countries in Africa. 

My interest in this field began in the summer of 2011, when I began work on my graduate thesis contrasting Indian and Chinese investments into the extractive sector in select African countries. This grew into a Doctoral dissertation examining the Resource Diplomacy Strategies of India and China in Africa. Over a decade later, the subject remains fascinating.

Building on the thesis and dissertation, I spent the past few years designing projects examining these interactions, across sectors, including Infrastructure development in Tanzania and Kenya, Manufacturing in Ghana and Ethiopia, Agriculture cooperation in Zambia, Mining and Financial Services in Zimbabwe. Every project thus far has involved crafting the study, raising funds, creating collaborations with institutions, curating multi-cultural teams, managing project workflow, conducting extensive fieldwork, creating deliverables including policy briefs, analyses, reports, monographs and organizing events to disseminate findings. 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 research fellow at Princeton and Harvard, leading the Africa vertical at an Indian think tank, consultant for NGO’s in Zimbabwe and Kenya, a doctoral student at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Mumbai, the School of International Studies, Peking University, China and at the Harvard-Yenching Institute – I have been examining 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 Research 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.