Seeking Success: A Comparative Study of Brazil and South Africa as Regional Powers

Hastie, Tyler [Browse]
Senior thesis
125 pages


Kohli, Atul [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
The development of regional powers, such as Brazil, South Africa, and India, has placed them on the fast track to gain a larger role in global institutions. A regional power, as defined by a consensus of the literature, is a state that wishes to lead a delineated geographic area and holds the political, military, demographic and economic prominence to do so. In order to counter the preexisting power imbalance with Western states and succeed on the global stage, regional powers must be successful in their regions. Yet, it is unclear as to why some regional powers are more successful than others. While many scholars have investigated the criteria of regional power status, very few scholars have attempted to understand what makes some regional powers more powerful than others. This thesis aims to explore this area where the literature is currently silent. It argues that the answer for the different levels of success of regional powers lie not in the amount of material power that the regional powers have, but instead in the use of this power. More specifically, this thesis proposes that success depends, at least in part, on a coherent posture towards regional affairs. Here, coherence is defined as consistency between perception and behavior. In order to determine what makes some regional powers more effective than others, this thesis combines two existing typologies and applies the resulting new typology to case studies on Brazil and South Africa. The new typology generates a spectrum of six different types of regional powers—dominator/imperialist, hard hegemon, intermediate hegemon, soft hegemon, leader, and detached power—that are differentiated in four indicators: a) selfperception, 2) regional perception, 3) exercise of powers, and 4) types of goods provided. In the case studies on Brazil and South Africa there are three case studies within each chapter that give examples of each country’s political, military, and economic regional foreign policy. In Brazil, the thesis explores: 1) Brazil’s involvement in the 2014-present day Venezuelan instability; 2) the domestic and global focus of Brazil’s military; and 3) Brazil’s role in the negotiations of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. In South Africa the thesis investigates: 1) South Africa’s participation in the Zimbabwe Crisis under President Mugabe, 2) South Africa’s military use in 1998 interventions, and 3) South African investment and trade into Southern Africa. Whereas Brazil adopts one type of regional power type within each policy, South Africa adopts multiple regional power postures in each policy area. This inconsistency is caused by the country’s preoccupation with its apartheid past. So that it does not cause alarm that it is adopting the damaging foreign policy of its apartheid predecessors, modern day South Africa tends to act weaker in Southern Africa than they believe they actually are. When dissected by this new typology, the case studies of Brazil and South Africa support the proposed argument. These case studies of South Africa and Brazil suggest that coherent foreign policy is critical in regional power success. Therefore, regional policies must strive to maintain a consistent posture within their region. If it would like to obtain success on the global stage, South Africa in particular must start to behave independently from its apartheid past and behave like the strong power it knows itself to be.

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